BOSTON – Amir Johnson didn’t put up huge numbers, but his impact on Friday’s 117-116 win over Orlando was undeniable.
The veteran forward came up with a late steal and a game-saving block of an Elfrid Payton lay-up attempt in the closing seconds to help secure a hard-to-come-by win for the Celtics.
“Amir did a great job of trying to stay in front of him and challenge that shot,” said Celtics head coach Brad Stevens. “That’s easier said than done.”
And the play of Johnson is easier to look past by fans, rather than embrace for its value when it comes to winning games.
“He’s a guy that does a lot that’s not on the stat sheet other than rebounding,” said Boston’s Isaiah Thomas. “He’s very vocal on the defensive end. He’s a guy that can guard multiple positions, so he helps us in numerous ways and he did a lot (against Orlando).”
Maybe too much, actually.
Johnson suffered a sprained ankle in the first quarter against the Magic when he rolled the ankle after being fouled while attempting a 3-pointer.
“I never thought the day would come I would roll my ankle on the three-point line,” said Johnson who added that the injury would not prevent him from traveling with the team to New York for their Sunday afternoon matchup against the New York Knicks.
Despite having some discomfort due to the ankle injury, Johnson refused to use that as an excuse to not come through for his teammates when they needed him most down the stretch.
“Just knowing my role, playing off of guys,” Johnson said. “We have a lot of great scorers on this team. You just have to find a way that you fit in and make things work. Just being the vet I am, I just find a way.”
Here are the Stars, Studs and Duds from Friday’s game between the Boston Celtics and the Orlando Magic.
Isaiah Thomas: When the Celtics needed him, Thomas was able to deliver be it a big basket or a timely assist. He led all scorers with 35 points on 10-for-23 shooting, in addition to dishing out seven assists and registering a blocked shot.
Aaron Gordon: His growth into being more than just an above-the-rim dunker was on full display Friday night. He led the Magic with 32 points – one short of tying his career high in addition to grabbing 16 rebounds.
Jae Crowder: He continues to be that No. 2 scorer the Celtics desperately need to take some of the offensive burden off Isaiah Thomas. Crowder had 18 points on 6-for-11 shooting from the field in addition to grabbing five rebounds on Friday. It was Crowder’s eighth straight game reaching double figures scoring, averaging 17.4 points and 6.9 rebounds in that span.
Evan Fournier: Although Gordon certainly had it going offensively for the Magic, they got a nice game out of Fournier who came up with some big shots in the fourth quarter that was part of his 20-point night.
Terry Rozier: This was one of the best games Rozier has had offensively in a while. He scored 12 points on 4-for-8 shooting along with grabbing six rebounds while dishing out three assists with just one turnover.
Celtics transition defense: Boston had too many possessions where they would score and not get back quick enough defensively as to prevent the Magic from getting a good look at the rim. Orlando point guard Payton controlled the tempo of the game for far too many stretches of play, a key to him finishing with a double-double of 12 points and a career-high 15 assists.