MISSISSAGUA, Ont. — Nick Johnson’s NBA G League Finals Most Valuable Player performance came from more than just scoring the basketball.
“Nick is a warrior. He’s a dog. He’s an ultimate teammate,” said Spurs two-way player Darrun Hilliard. “Him getting the MVP award was well deserved. He played the best all-around and probably meant the most to our team on both side of the court. We’re all so happy for him.”
The Arizona product helped lead the Austin Spurs to their second title in franchise history with his play on both ends of the floor.
Johnson, who scored 17 points and knocked down 5-of-6 3-pointers in the Game 2 win, said he was “shocked” but “ecstatic” to be named MVP.
“It’s an amazing feeling,” said Johnson. “I had no clue I would be the MVP, but it’s such a great feeling. I just try to go out there and do what I can for the team.”
Raptors 905 battled back into the game early in the second half, cutting the Spurs’ lead to just one, at which point Johnson was vocal on the sidelines during a timeout, telling his teammates “we’ve got this.”
“Nick got us going today. He got us all locked in throughout the game,” said Austin guard Olivier Hanlan. “He also played so well. He started us off on defense, and whenever we play defense and are locked in that’s when we’re at our best.”
Not only was Johnson awarded MVP for his play during the two Finals games, but his teammates and coaches all agreed that his presence was a key to building the Western Conference’s top team in the regular season, and the league’s champion on Tuesday night.
Johnson averaged 11.7 points per game in the regular season, but turned it up a notch during the postseason, averaging 15 points on 58.3 percent from 3-point range, including 17 points per game in the Spurs’ two Finals wins.
“Nick has been on and off the floor one of our best leaders this year,” said coach Blake Ahearn. “I can’t say enough about what he’s meant to this team and this group and how he’s done it.”
Johnson has bounced around between the NBA G League, the NBA, and overseas playing one season with Bayern Munich in Germany, but this season and this performance could be the one to propel him to an NBA future.
“I’m entering my fifth year pro after this, which is crazy, but I’d like to think I’m a more dynamic player than I was five years ago,” he said. “I’m going to continue to build on this, and I’m excited for what’s to come.”