Take note, the Jazz aren't just "happy to be here."
Joe Johnson drained the game-winning shot at the buzzer and the Utah Jazz shocked the Los Angeles Clippers, 97-95, in Game 1 of the first round of the NBA Playoffs at Staples Center on Saturday night.
It looked like it could have been over after the first 17 seconds of the game when Jazz center Rudy Gobert went down with a left knee sprain.
The 7'1" French center did not return to the game and was taken to a nearby hospital for further testing.
Instead of wilting under the pressure, the Jazz rallied together, thanks to 16-year veteran Joe Johnson.
Johnson led the Jazz with a team-high 21 points, including hitting a buzzer-beater to steal Game 1 for the Jazz. Johnson's shot with less than 10 seconds left bounced off the rim and into the net, just as the horn went off.
JOE JOHNSON WINS GAME 1 pic.twitter.com/XvwGRYz0zN
— Sports Illustrated (@SInow) April 16, 2017
Johnson leads the NBA among active players with last-second buzzer beaters over the past decade. The former 10th round pick out of Arkansas has eight buzzer-beaters over that span, more than LeBron James (4) and Andre Iguodala (4).
"In those moments of the game, guys are not going to help," said Johnson of his clutch performances over the last decade. "It's kind of like you're on an island by yourself and they expect for you to get that stop. I just try to be patient, get to a sweet spot and make the play."
Gordan Hayward had 19 points and 10 rebounds for the Jazz. Derrick Favors came off the bench in place of Gobert for 15 points and another veteran, George Hill added 16.
"All three of the vets that we added this year have been instrumental to our success," said Hayward. "Joe [Johnson] has been tremenouds. The preparation that we had going in, he talked about visualizing yourself out there. Along with the other two guys, really helped prepare us because we are pretty inexperienced as far as the Playoffs are concerned."
To the Clippers credit, they clawed back in the second half, trailing by as many as eight points in the fourth quarter.
Chris Paul hit a floating bank shot with 13 seconds left to tie the game, but the Jazz did not take a timeout before the final play, instead choosing to catch the Clippers off guard and improvise the final shot.
"When Joe makes the shot, it always makes the coach look smart," said Utah head coach Quin Snyder after the game. "We wanted to go ahead and go because we knew we could get the last shot. There's something to be said for calling time-out and there's something to be said for not calling the time-out. We wanted the ball in Joe's hands and we got a switch."
On paper, without Gobert, the Clippers should have crushed the Jazz at home, instead, especially in the paint, but they only narrowly held the edge 42-40, and trailed for most of the second half.
Blake Griffin scored 26 points to lead Los Angeles and Chris Paul had 25 points, 11 assists and seven rebounds in the loss.
"Our defense has to be better," said a disappointed Paul after the loss. "They played harder. They were more physical, and I mean, what do they say, 'the series don't start until somebody loses at home,' so I guess the series got started."
— Michael J. Duarte (@michaeljduarte) April 16, 2017
The "Clippers Curse," in the playoffs continues to haunt Los Angeles after one game. L.A. has been elminated in the first or second round each of the last five years.
Meanwhile, this is the first playoff appearance for the Jazz over that span.
Game 2 is scheduled for Tuesday night at Staples Center. Tip-off is 7:30PM PST.