I’m starting to think that Portland Trail Blazer center Chris Johnson has a knack for pulling some game-changing plays against the Dallas Mavericks.
Remember his behind-the-backboard reverse
against the Mavs that had fans in awe?
It was the same in Thursday’s 97-92 win over Dallas in Game 3 at the Rose Garden, where the D-League Defensive Player of the Year showed a sellout crowd, packed with over 20-thousand fans, why he earned such a prestige title.
The Trail Blazers and Mavs both exchanged blows that led to the 72-72 tie with 32.2 seconds left in the third quarter, when Johnson made his playoff debut.
Subbing in for a fatigued LaMarcus Aldridge, who had played 33 minutes in the three frames, Johnson got right to work in short time.
Dallas’ Jose Barea became his first victim after trying to drive through the lane for an easy lay-in, but was met by Johnson, who rejected his shot that gave Portland an energy boost to end the period up 75-72.
“I bring energy,” said Johnson. “That’s my role and I don’t want to go outside of that. I wanted to do a good job.”
Trail Blazers’ Head Coach Nate McMillan commended Johnson’s effort coming off the bench saying, “It was the difference.”
“Chris Johnson basically came out and did a real nice job defensively with Camby being in foul trouble and giving us some good minutes.”
Johnson only played six minutes. The majority came in the fourth quarter, but he made the most of every second to end the game with two blocked shots and three rebounds for an fficiency rating of +7, matching the 16-point resurgence of Brandon Roy.
“A little bit,” said Johnson of experiencing Game 3 jitters. “If you’re not nervous, I just don’t know. Especially with this huge crowd, the fans are great. I just didn’t want to mess up.”
But Johnson didn't mess up. He did the opposite. He lit a spark down the stretch that Portland seriously needed to avoid an 0-3 hole. He even did something that Marcus Camby, Aldridge and Nicolas Batum have had trouble doing in all three games of the first-round series: Block Dirk Nowitzki.
That’s right, even the Mavs’ 28.6-point-per-game scorer Nowitzki felt the wrath of Johnson. He showed his team that Nowitzki’s methodical, yet acrobatic shooting ability is not unstoppable.
“It was great,” said Johnson about his block on Nowitzki. “I watch Camby and LA and see what they do defensively and offensively. It helps a lot just to be able to watch. That really helps seeing how they move around on D and how they time block shots. It’s a great learning experience.”
With Johnson’s impact on Thursday’s win, it has sparked questions, pondering his role in the Game 4 matchup back at the Rose Garden on Saturday. The Trail Blazers can protect their home court and even the series 2-2.
“I don’t expect anything,” said Johnson about his role in Game 4. “If coach needs me, then I’ll be ready.”