Amir Johnson

Amir Johnson

In a tilt against the Bulls on Wednesday night that taught a lot about the Celtics, arguably the biggest lesson was one that not many people would expect.

Amir Johnson can shoot from the perimeter.

Now, maybe it’s a bit premature to start throwing him in with the likes of Peja Stojakovic, but the 6-foot-9 veteran showed a different dimension of his game than previously seen during his first year and change with the Celtics.

He attempted (and missed) one other 3-pointer this season, but after going 4-for-4 from deep, he now qualifies for league leader considerations in 3-point percentage. And believe it or not, he leads the league with an .800 3-point percentage.

“I don’t think I was on the scouting report for ‘Running Amir off the line,’ ” Johnson joked following the game. “It was just a good night for me.”

That’s not to say it will stay that way — because in all likelihood it won’t — but after Johnson almost never ventured out to the perimeter with the Pistons, but then wandered out more in his time with the Raptors, it probably shouldn’t be a total surprise he’s capable of pulling the trigger from downtown.

“I’m always able to shoot,” Johnson said. “Guys can shoot in the league. It’s just in our offense, you know? I try to always play team ball. I’m a very unselfish player. I look to pass first, but I was able to just find open spots and knock down shots within our offense.

“I prefer to roll and get that soft touch, but if guys are just laying off and giving me that much time, like [Robin Lopez] likes to sit in the paint, then I’m going to shoot the ball.”

Sitting in the paint is what made Johnson so effective.

With Al Horford — the usual suspect to skedaddle out to 3-point territory — sidelined (concussion) and Tyler Zeller in his place, it was more natural for Johnson to go out to the perimeter. The side effect of him doing that, however, was a much clearer lane for Zeller to grab rebounds, something he struggled with at times early in the game. 

“I mean, he’s a shooter, you have to play him as a shooter,” Zeller said. “A lot of guys like to sag off and guard him instead of me, so really it makes my job a lot easier, because when he starts hitting shots they’ve got to play him and respect him as a shooter. And that really opens the lane a lot.”

For his other teammates who are more regarded around the league as shooters, it was as much of a relief to see him hitting shots as it was surprising.

“When he takes that long to release it, it’s probably going in,” Isaiah Thomas said. “He felt good. He got the right shots. We rotated the ball to him, he set his feet and knocked them down. He’d been talking all week about how he’s been shooting it.”

Celtics coach Brad Stevens was not as stunned as most everyone else — due largely to his behind-the-scenes view of Johnson’s work ethic and how much time he puts into his shot.

“I will say this: Amir Johnson comes in and shoots [3-pointers] after every practice with [assistant coach] Jay Larranaga,” Stevens said. “I think that when you watch Amir do an individual workout, whether it’s in the summer or the fall, people would be surprised at how many he makes. Not the people that came to tonight’s game for the first time, but people that watch on a day-to-day basis.”

Marcus Smart just wants to figure out Johnson’s pregame routine so he can get in on the action from deep.

“I was going crazy [on the bench],” Smart said. “I was like, ‘Whatever [Johnson] ate or drank last night, I want some of it.’ “

Blog Author: 
Logan Mullen

Jae Crowder

Jae Crowder

The Celtics will look to build off of their 3-1 record without Jae Crowder for at least a week, according to coach Brad Stevens. 

Crowder suffered a left ankle sprain in the second quarter of Wednesday night’s 107-100 win over the Bulls at TD Garden. He is the second player in the front court to sustain an injury this week for the Celtics.

Al Horford, who was placed in the NBA’s concussion protocol program on Tuesday, will not be making the trip to Cleveland for Thursday night’s game against the Cavaliers, and Stevens doesn’t expect to see Crowder back on the floor in the near future. 

“Jae sprained his ankle,” Brad Stevens said. “That’s all I know. I was told that it would be at least a week and then we’ll see after, but I don’t think we’re into it enough to make an assessment on that timeline. It doesn’t sound like he’ll be back anytime soon.”

Crowder came down on Rajon Rondo’s foot after making a jumping pass and hit the floor for a moment before he hopped off the court and straight to the Celtics locker room. 

All-Star Isaiah Thomas knows losing Crowder is a tough blow to his team, but he reminded everyone that the Celtics were in a similar position last season when the C’s were forced to play without their starting small forward.

“[It’s] very tough,” Thomas said after the Celtics’ win against the Bulls. “Last year we lost a back-to-back and beat the Warriors in their arena without Jae Crowder. There’s no excuses, they’re not going to feel sorry for us. Get our rest tonight and be ready for prime-time TV tomorrow.”

Thomas is confident in the Celtics’ depth and said he believes guys can come up big on the road against the Cavaliers. 

“We have a lot of good players who can step in at any given time,” Thomas said. “That’s our strength, our depth, and we have to keep going. Hopefully we can sneak one out of Cleveland.”

Blog Author: 
Josue Pavon

Marcus Smart

Marcus Smart

In his season debut, Marcus Smart reminded us why he’s so important to the Celtics as his defensive prowess shined against the Bulls and their brightest stars.  

Smart rattled the Bulls’ one-two punch in Dwyane Wade and Jimmy Butler. He forced them to take awkward shots from the perimeter, pressured them in the back court and was physical with both All-stars when they penetrated the paint. 

Butler, who finished with 23 points on 8-of-21 shots, had trouble finding his rhythm offensively and the same could be said for Wade. He finished with 15 points on the night, on 5-of-13 shots. Both guys shot below 40-percent and Smart was key contributor in slowing them down. 

His defensive play earned him 33:42 of playing time and was a big reason why he was still in the game at the end of the fourth quarter. Smart finished with 7 points, including a game-changing hook shot out of a timeout called by Brad Stevens with 25.2 seconds left that made it a two-possession game (105-100).

“It kind of just happened,” Smart said. “I was supposed to get a ball right to Isaiah (Thomas), but he was getting double-played so I just made a play.”

How often do you practice hook shots?

“I actually work on those, work on getting it high off the glass,” Smart said. “I just figured if I could get to the spot and put it up there it’d be a good shot to go in.”

Although Smart did make a big shot at the end of the fourth quarter, his offense is still rusty with plenty of room for improvement. He shot 25 percent from the floor on 2-of-8 attempts, including a woeful 1-of-6 from deep. Smart’s cold shooting continues to be his biggest flaw, however, fatigue certainly was a factor on Wednesday night and Smart was the first one to admit it.

“To be honest, my lungs are on fire,” Smart admitted. “But it felt good being the first game back and being able to come out with a victory is always a good thing. 

With Jae Crowder (left ankle sprain) and Al Horford (concussion) both ruled out for Thursday night’s matchup against the champion Cavaliers, the Celtics will lean on Smart to pick up some of the scoring load. The shorthanded Celtics (3-1) will certainly need Smart to perform well on both ends of the floor if they plan on delivering the Cavaliers (4-0) their first loss of the season. 

Blog Author: 
Josue Pavon

While one Chicago team was in pursuit of ending a 108-year championship drought, another was giving the Celtics a heart attack in the C’s 107-100 win over the Bulls.

Nov 2, 2016; Boston, MA, USA;  Chicago Bulls guard / forward Jimmy Butler (21) is guarded by Boston Celtics forward / center Amir Johnson (90) during the second quarter at TD Garden. Mandatory Credit: Greg M. Cooper-USA TODAY Sports

Amir Johnson (90) was an offensive and defensive force for the Celtics Wednesday, here guarding Jimmy Butler. (Greg M. Cooper/USA Today Sports)

While one Chicago team was in pursuit of ending a 108-year championship drought, another was giving the Celtics a heart attack in the C’s 107-100 win over the Bulls.

With a lead of as many as 16 in the fourth quarter, the Celtics squandered yet another lead at home, letting the Bulls tie the game with less than two minutes left in the fourth. Despite the late surge, the Celtics fended the Bulls off, scoring five unanswered points after the Bulls evened the game out.

Amir Johnson had arguably his most memorable game in green, dropping 23 points on the Bulls, including four 3-pointers on as many attempts. He had three assists and five rebounds as well. 

Isaiah Thomas turned in a double-double performance, scoring 23 points while dishing out 10 assists.

In his season debut, guard Marcus Smart was quiet offensively, turning the ball over six times in his 33 minutes of work, but was solid on the defensive end. He managed to grab five boards with one steal.

With legitimate concern surrounding the Celtics frontcourt with the absence of Al Horford, the C’s were more than adept on the glass against a Bulls team that dominated them in rebounding during two’s last meeting less than a week ago. While still out-rebounded 49 to 39, it was an improvement compared to them getting worked over 55-36 on the glass on Thursday.

The injury bug continued to bit the Celtics in the second quarter when Jae Crowder sprained his ankle, taking a nasty spill on the offensive end. He hit the floor rolling in pain, clutching his left ankle. He proceed to hop on his right leg off the court and into the tunnel with the medical staff behind him. He left the game having scored 10 points while grabbing five boards in 14 minutes.

For a complete box score, click here.

Stud of the night: Amir Johnson

Johnson showed flashes of otherwise uncharacteristic traits on offense that caused trouble for the Bulls. He hit a four 3-pointers, and following his first he proceeded to drive to the hoop and finish a layup the next possession. In consistently posing a threat — especially from the perimeter, he was able to help clear the lane for Tyler Zeller whilst also opening the floor for the backcourt to drive.

Dud of the night: The Celtics late-game performance

A week after the Celtics collapsed and nearly blew the season opener to the Nets, the Celtics were abysmal yet again late in the fourth quarter after leading by as many as 16 at one point in the final frame.

When the game was won: Isaiah Thomas’ dazzling layup with 1:23 left

After Nikola Mirotic missed a pair of free throws with the Celtics up by one point, Isaiah Thomas crossed up the Bulls defense on a drive to the basket, finishing the layup in traffic to put the Celtics up by three points. The Bulls never answered the remainder of the game.

Blog Author: 
Logan Mullen

For the first time this season, the Celtics starting lineup will not include Al Horford — and it will be that way for a at least two games.

Al Horford

Al Horford

For the first time this season, the Celtics starting lineup will not include Al Horford — and it will be that way for a at least two games.

The Celtics center will miss Wednesday’s game against the Bulls as part of the NBA Concussion Protocol, being replaced by Tyler Zeller. Horford suffered the injury on Monday in practice when a teammate swiped for a ball and got Horford in the head.

After feeling fine Monday night and into Tuesday morning, Horford was too nauseous to complete Tuesday’s practice. He won’t travel with the team either for Thursday’s game against the Cavs.

According to head coach Brad Stevens, “He felt better today but still had some symptoms, and you have to be 24 hours symptom-free before resuming activity, and if any symptoms come up after that 24 hours once you resume activity it restarts itself. So we’ll see how he feels tomorrow, but he will not be on the trip, he will not play [Wednesday or Thursday].”

With Horford’s absence clearing the way for Zeller to get a start, it is another testament to the 7-footers flexibility in minutes. After spending most of last season deep in the bench, he’s averaged 16.3 minutes so far this season, including a 20:18 outing when the Celtics saw the Bulls on Thursday.

“Tyler has been there, done that here and we talked about Tyler’s value extending beyond just a typical role when fully healthy is that he’s been a guy that’s started games for us, started big games for us and has played really well and is able to both. He’s able to come off the bench or start,” Stevens said.

“With his size, with their rebounding, we’re going to need guys to get them off the glass. It doesn’t mean that he’ll get every rebound, we’ll need our guards to rebound as our bigs are blocking out a lot.”

Other Celtics Notes:

— Marcus Smart will make his season debut after missing the first three games with a left ankle sprain. Avery Bradley will be in the available as well, with both free of any minutes restrictions. 

Blog Author: 
Logan Mullen

The Celtics will be without Al Horford for Wednesday night’s game at TD Garden against the Bulls, as the center was placed in the NBA’s concussion protocol program.

Al Horford

Al Horford

The Celtics will be without Al Horford for Wednesday night’s game at TD Garden against the Bulls, as the center was placed in the NBA’s concussion protocol program.

According to the team, Horford was hit in the head during Monday’s practice, although he did not show any concussion symptoms on Monday night or Tuesday morning. During Tuesday’s practice, Horford started to show symptoms, so he was removed from the court and examined by team physicians. He was placed in the concussion protocol program Tuesday night.

Meanwhile, Avery Bradley missed Tuesday’s practice with a sore right shoulder — an issue he’s been dealing with since training camp. Coach Brad Stevens said the team’s medical staff will determine the guard’s availability for Wednesday. Bradley had two shoulder surgeries (both sides) after the 2011-12 season.

Bradley, 25, is coming off a tremendous performance in a win over the Hornets on Saturday night, as he amassed 31 points, 11 rebounds and eight 3-pointers. Through three games he is averaging 21.3 points, 8.7 rebounds and 4.7 assists.

On the positive side for Boston, guard Marcus Smart will make his season debut Wednesday after being sidelined with a sprained ankle.

Blog Author: 
Jerry Spar

Ray Allen is finally retiring.

The two-time champion and former Celtics great, who hasn’t played since the Heat lost the 2014 Finals to the Spurs, announced his retirement in a letter to his 13-year-old self on the Players’ Tribune website.