Johnson’s Well-Rounded Effort Snaps Losing Spell

BOSTON – Amir Johnson has always been known as a guy who impacts the game of basketball in a quiet, yet positive manner. Rarely will you see him produce other worldly numbers; he instead makes his mark by doing the dirty work, and doing it well.

The 11th-year-veteran sets strong picks, runs the floor and bangs bodies relentlessly with opposing bigs. Those are all tendencies that are appreciated the most by his coaches and teammates.

“He just does all the little things that the fans don’t see in the stat book,” Isaiah Thomas said Wednesday night. “That’s what type of player he’s always been, and that’s how he’s made his name.”

Wednesday night against the Pacers, however, Johnson’s impact was far from quiet, as he put his name up in lights on a nationally televised stage for his best performance in a Celtics uniform.

The 6-foot-9 forward loaded up the box score to the tune of 14 points, 18 rebounds and six assists, en route to a 103-94 win over the visiting Indiana Pacers.

The victory snapped a season-high four-game losing streak, and Johnson’s teammates were full of praise regarding his phenomenal impact.

“He was a presence at the rim, on the [offensive] glass, he really got to his jump hooks and really made them pay,” Jae Crowder said after the game. “It was unbelievable to see him get after it on both ends of the court."

On the offensive end, Johnson shot 6-of-11 from the field and grabbed eight boards. He corralled another 10 rebounds on the defensive end, while also snagging a pair of steals.

Johnson’s efficient scoring and insane rebounding numbers only told part of the story, though.

He also tied a game- and career-high with six assists. Boston’s top passer, Isaiah Thomas, joked after the game that Johnson stole a bit of his thunder as the team’s facilitator.

“He took over my position,” said Thomas with a chuckle. “I didn’t get that many assists (three), so somebody’s got to make the plays, and he did that tonight.”

Johnson’s tendency to make plays – whether it’s scoring, rebounding or passing – has been on the rise lately. He has now averaged 12.3 points, 9.3 rebounds and 2.7 assists during the first seven games of the calendar year. That’s a solid spike from the 7.4 points, 5.8 rebounds and 1.5 assists he averaged during his previous 30 games.

“He’s played like that now for two or three weeks, so he’s really come on big time and we needed him to,” said coach Brad Stevens. “It was good to see him play like that [tonight]. He made huge plays in big moments.”

His biggest moment Wednesday night came during the closing minutes, when the C’s were trying to get their lead back in time for a W.

Trailing 94-91 with less than two minutes remaining, Johnson jumped the passing lane to intercept Monta Ellis’ dish near the top of Indiana’s 3-point line. He then dribbled the full length of the court and finished with a jam. It was the second of four critical steals the Celtics snagged during the final minutes, as they were able to come back and seal the deal against the Pacers.

Johnson said the Celtics simply got hungry at the end because they had been fed up with their losing ways during the past week.

“We got down a couple of games on the road and we definitely wanted to get this win tonight,” said Johnson. “I said it out there [on the court], we definitely owe it to our fans, not only ourselves, but our fans who come in every night.”

That attitude is what makes Johnson such a great leader for the C’s. His positive outlook impresses Stevens far more than any numbers that he will ever accumulate.

“You know, one thing that he brings is – I don’t know if it’s because of his experience or his personality – he’s just a really positive, uplifting person,” said Stevens. “So being on a losing streak doesn’t get him too down. He just kind of approaches every day the same, and if it does [get him down], he doesn’t show it.”

Added Thomas, “He’s a big part of this team, and I’m glad he’s a part of it.”

Celtics Nation is glad Johnson is along for the ride as well; especially after the noise he created Wednesday night during Boston’s uplifting win.

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