There were eight other players on the court during the waning seconds of overtime, but Nate Robinson and Joe Johnson made everyone else look invisible as the pair stole the spotlight with a couple of back-to-back clutch buckets in Game 4 of the heated first-round series between the Chicago Bulls and Brooklyn Nets.
After pouring in 23 fourth-quarter points (one shy of Michael Jordan's playoff franchise record), Robinson saved his best for overtime. With the game tied and the clock ticking down, the 5'8" spark plug waved off a screen from Joakim Noah, dribbled right and picked up his dribble at the three-point line.
At that moment, it appeared as though Robinson had no idea what he was doing.
But, obviously, a one-footed runner from 20 feet was the last thing Deron Williams—Robinson's defender—expected.
Robinson's floating, leaning one-hander came off of his fingertips much too hard to find the rim.
Fortunately for the Bulls, it came off just hard enough to carom off the backboard and drop through the net—an improbable, incredible banker that put the Bulls up by two with less than two seconds remaining.
It may not have happened on purpose, but Robinson was just that hot.
Beckley Mason @BeckleyMason
Nate Robinson with the shot you take when you are still figuring out the buttons in a new version of 2K.2013-4-27 21:19:46
The Bulls were jubilant as the Nets called a timeout to collect themselves before the final possession of overtime. With a potential 3-1 deficit staring them in the face, the Nets needed a miracle.
What they got was a surprisingly pedestrian runner from Johnson.
Catching the ball off of a screen as he curled around the top of the arc, Johnson put the ball on the floor, possibly surprising the Bulls defenders by not shooting on the catch.
Jimmy Butler trailed him, but with a short burst, Johnson got into the lane and lofted a righty floater over the outstretched arm of Joakim Noah, who was just a half-step late in his help rotation. To be fair, the Bulls center couldn't have expected a drive with less than two seconds remaining.
Anyone who's been watching the Nets this year knows that Johnson, despite an otherwise disappointing campaign, has had a knack for clutch buckets.
Calder Hynes @calder_h
Joe Johnson now 11-12 when #Nets are tied or trailing by three or fewer with less than a minute remaining this season cc @johnschuhmann2013-4-27 21:21:29
Eric Freeman @freemaneric
That's why you pay Joe Johnson 40 billion dollars a season. To rescue you from debilitating losses against teams led by Nate Robinson.2013-4-27 21:15:58
With no time left on the clock, both exhausted clubs headed to double overtime, where, appropriately, they still couldn't decide the outcome.
Robinson went cold in the second extra period and fouled out with 1:02 remaining, ending one of the most spectacular late-game individual performances in recent memory.
The two exhausted teams traded blows through a third extra period before Chicago finally ended things after nearly four hours of basketball.
Robinson finished with 34 points, including 29 in the fourth quarter and overtime. Johnson finished with 22.
The Bulls now hold a 3-1 advantage, effectively robbing the series of any drama going forward.
Of course, Robinson and Johnson's incredible heroics down the stretch probably used up all of the available drama anyway.
Welcome to the playoffs, folks!