Breaking News Bar
updated: 5/2/2011 11:22 PM

Johnson steals the spotlight

hello
Success - Article sent! close
  • JOE LEWNARD/jlewnard@dailyherald.comJoe Johnson of the Atlanta Hawks goes to the basket against Ronnie Brewer, left, and Taj Gibson of the Bulls during Monday's game at the United Center.

      JOE LEWNARD/jlewnard@dailyherald.comJoe Johnson of the Atlanta Hawks goes to the basket against Ronnie Brewer, left, and Taj Gibson of the Bulls during Monday's game at the United Center.

 

Joe Johnson got the Derrick Rose treatment after Atlanta shocked the Bulls 103-95 in Game 1 on Monday night.

Johnson, not Rose, handled the postgame TV interview that goes to the game's best player.

When Johnson left the court, he had the four-man NBA TV crew backpedaling to keep ahead of him as he jogged toward the victorious locker room.

"We gotta stay focused," Johnson told the camera.

But before he could reach the locker room, he enjoyed a handshake with a smiling Scottie Pippen.

That's how things usually go for the guy that pours in a game-high 34 points at the United Center. When he hits all 5 of his 3-point attempts.

When he chips in 3 assists and 3 steals on a night when his running mate, the team's point guard and top defender, is sitting on the bench in a suit.

"Joe, he makes plays in big moments," said interim point guard Jeff Teague. "That's what we expect from him."

And why not? At $16.3 million, Johnson makes the biggest salary of anybody in this nascent Eastern Conference semifinal series.

"In order for us to be a successful team offensively, he has to be aggressive like he was tonight," said Hawks forward Josh Smith.

Actually, considering how hot Johnson was from the start in Game 1, it's hard to believe the Bulls waited so long to start treating him like Derrick Rose.

On numerous occasions, Johnson either used a screen to break free from Bulls forward Luol Deng or simply took the ball right at Deng.

Or, as the sellout crowd at United Center saw on more than one occasion in the fourth quarter, Johnson isolated Deng on one side of the floor and drilled a jumper.

Johnson, who canned 12 of 18 shots from the floor and 5 of 5 from the line, enjoyed his second-highest scoring night since the All-Star Break.

"It's big, man," Johnson said. "The regular season's over. We're starting a new season. Playoffs is a whole new season. I just wanted to come out and be aggressive and make plays."

That was Teague's mantra, too, even though he played a grand total of 9 minutes in the Hawks' 6-game first-round series against Orlando.

With Kirk Hinrich out with a bad hamstring, Teague made his first playoff start and played a career-high 44 minutes, 37 seconds.

Teague delivered the game's first basket as he drove at Joakim Noah and floated a runner over his outstretched arm.

"When I hit that (floater), I think everything calmed down a little bit," Teague said.

Teague finished with 10 points and 5 assists and received the game ball from Hawks coach Larry Drew.

"It put a smile on my face," Teague said. "But you don't get too happy; you don't get too low when you lose."

Get articles sent to your inbox.