Sixers praise Amir Johnson as MVP of win over Jazz

Sixers praise Amir Johnson as MVP of win over Jazz


Ben Simmons scored a career-high, Joel Embiid recorded a double-double, and still, the highest praise was directed to an unlikely player after the Sixers’ 107-86 win over the Jazz: Amir Johnson.

“He was the MVP of tonight,” Embiid said. 

Johnson embraced the ultimate role player mentality. He didn’t know until shortly before the game if he was going to start in place of Embiid or come off the bench. Embiid, who had been dealing with left knee soreness, ended up playing. So Johnson waited for his name to be called and stepped right into action. 

Johnson began the game with five rebounds in four first-quarter minutes. He finished with 13 boards, eight points and four blocks in 21 minutes. Johnson pulled down 10-plus rebounds for the 98th time in his career (see observations)

“I feel like my job is just to find ways I can help my teammates,” Johnson said. “Knowing Joel, Ben and those guys are going to get the majority minutes, but when I come in I want to be effective at the same time.”

The 13-year veteran has been studying game film. Even though he didn’t get on the court in either of the Sixers’ matchups against the Warriors and played a combined 28 minutes in three road games in California, Johnson has been staying ready. 

“It’s huge for us,” Simmons said of Johnson’s defense. “Having a guy come off the bench and play a role like that. As a vet, he’s one of the leaders. He comes in, plays hard, doesn’t ask for more minutes or anything like that. He’s a great player.”

The Sixers signed Johnson to a one-year, $11 million contract this summer. He proved what he could do on the court since entering the league out of high school in 2005, but the even bigger draw was what he could add to the locker room. Brett Brown reached out to some of Johnson’s former teammates and the assessments echoed one another. Now the Sixers are seeing what those who played with Johnson were talking about. 

“It was amazing, to a man, how consistent the reviews were,” Brown said. “People skills, work his butt off, could handle sitting and swinging a towel or coming in and making a difference. He’s a good person and he’s a pro. 

“To be able to bring him in the game, and not worry about is he happy, is he fresh, is he in shape, does he need 10 shots isn’t ever on my mind with Amir. He’s a perfect teammate.” 

Redick bounces back in 2nd half
JJ Redick is at a point in his career where he isn’t worried about a slow start. He went scoreless in the first half and still ended up with 20 points. 

“Maybe five or six years ago I probably would have been a little more stressed at halftime,” Redick said. “But I just knew there would be some opportunities and stayed patient.”

Brown noticed Redick getting better looks after halftime. He evenly distributed his scoring with 10 points in both the third and the fourth quarters. He shot a perfect 4 for 4 from the field in the third. 

“I’m always going to be aggressive. There just weren’t opportunities to get shots off in the first half,” Redick said. “I scored 20 in the second half, but didn’t feel like I was forcing anything. The opportunities were there. Sometimes that happens within a game.”

Simmons, too
Simmons showed the same kind of poise, even more notable because he is a rookie. Simmons shot 2 for 9 in the first half, shook off the early struggles, and scored a career-high 27 points. He scored half of the Sixers’ 28 points in the third quarter off an efficient 7 for 9 shooting stretch. 

“I thought I was going to have more, honestly,” Simmons said. 

Simmons took advantage of the Jazz missing center Rudy Gobert in the middle. He became the only Sixer since 1963-64 to score in double digits in each of his first 16 games. Simmons is averaging 18.7 points, 9.2 rebounds, 7.6 assists and 2.0 steals per game.

Marcus Morris' last-second shot gives Celtics win

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Marcus Morris' last-second shot gives Celtics win

BOSTON -- Marcus Morris made a 3-pointer with 1.2 seconds left and the Boston Celtics stunned the Oklahoma City Thunder 100-99 on Tuesday night.

Jayson Tatum led the Celtics with 23 points and 11 rebounds. Morris added 21 points as Boston snapped the Thunder's six-game win streak.

Russell Westbrook finished with 27 points, eight rebounds and seven assists for Oklahoma City, which fell apart in the closing minute.

Boston took an 82-81 lead in the fourth quarter on a 3-pointer by Shane Larkin, who finished with 17 points off the bench.

The Thunder missed 15 of their first 21 3-point attempts before making four straight to go back in front 93-89.

Boston closed to 99-97 on a 3 by Terry Rozier, and quickly fouled Carmelo Anthony with 7.7 seconds remaining. Anthony missed both attempts and the Celtics gathered the rebound.

Out of the timeout, Tatum dribbled across the lane and found Morris on the wing for the go-ahead 3.

Westbrook was able to get off a long 3-pointer on the Thunder's final possession, but it came up short at the buzzer (see full recap).

Schroder’s career night helps Hawks upset Jazz
SALT LAKE CITY -- Dennis Schroder scored a career-high 41 points, including 17 in the fourth quarter, and the Atlanta Hawks stunned the Utah Jazz 99-94 on Tuesday night.

Dewayne Dedmon had 15 points and 15 rebounds to help the Eastern Conference-worst Hawks snap their six-game losing skid and end Utah's winning streak at nine. Taurean Prince made four free throws in the final 11 seconds to clinch the victory.

The Jazz, who won 21 of 23 games in between losses to the Hawks, made their final field goal on Gobert's basket with 2:33 to play and missed their last five shots.

Schroder on a variety of drives and bested his previous career high of 34 points, set in a 110-105 loss to Brooklyn on Jan. 12.

With 2:07 to play and after another of his driving layups, Schroder flailed his arm and caught Ricky Rubio with a hand to the face. He was assessed a flagrant-1 foul and Rubio hit both free throws. Joe Ingles followed with two foul shots for Utah's final lead.

Donovan Mitchell scored 24 points and Rubio had 23 for the Jazz (see full recap).

Towns, Wiggins lead Timberwolves to victory
MINNEAPOLIS -- Karl-Anthony Towns racked up 30 points and 10 rebounds for his NBA-best 60th double-double and Andrew Wiggins scored 27 points in an all-around performance, leading the Minnesota Timberwolves to a 123-109 victory over the Los Angeles Clippers on Tuesday night that was critical for their push for the playoffs.

Jeff Teague pitched in 20 points and 12 assists for the Timberwolves, who swept the four-game season series and sent the weary Clippers to their fourth consecutive loss on the commencement of a four-game, six-night trip.

Jamal Crawford scored 20 points and Taj Gibson had 15 points and eight rebounds as the Timberwolves pushed their lead over the Clippers (37-33) to three games. With five losses in their last seven games, the Wolves (41-31) had fallen into eighth place in the Western Conference. Denver (38-33) is in ninth.

DeAndre Jordan led the way for the Clippers with 18 points and 12 rebounds, but Tobias Harris played with flu-like symptoms and finished with only 10 points on 5-for-16 shooting, missing all five of his 3-point tries. Lou Williams and Sean Kilpatrick each had 15 points off the bench (see full recap).

These players could come 'out of left field' for Sixers

These players could come 'out of left field' for Sixers

Brett Brown’s witnessed many playoff battles during his days as an assistant with the San Antonio Spurs.

That’s when the stars shine brightest in an attempt to help their team hoist the Larry O’Brien trophy. It’s also when role players get an opportunity to change the course of a series and leave an imprint that lasts a lifetime.

Think Kenny Smith’s seven three-pointers in Game 1 of the 1995 NBA Finals, Steve Kerr’s series-sealing jumper in Game 6 of the 1997 NBA Finals and Robert Horry in, well, too many games to count.

“Every one of my years with San Antonio, 12 of them, somebody came out of left field in one of the games for six minutes, maybe more, and had a significant impact on a win,” Brown said last week.

Sure, Joel Embiid and Ben Simmons are going to do the heavy lifting. But the real question is who else will make a significant contribution during those crucial postseason moments?

Robert Covington is certainly not planning to shy away from the big stage.

After three months of sliding production, the swingman has regained his shooting form at just the right time as the Sixers appear headed for their first postseason berth since 2011-12. Covington is shooting 47.3 percent from the field and 42.4 percent from three-point range with an offensive rating of 128 in March.

“My teammates have been pretty much finding me the same shots, but I just changed up a little bit of my workout, switched it up,” Covington said after scoring 18 points (6 for 12 shooting) in the Sixers’ 108-94 win over the Hornets on Monday. “That’s what allowed me to get where I’m at now. My teammates have been finding me open spots. We’ve been moving the ball really well.

“That’s just doing the right things and waiting on that moment.”

Marco Belinelli knows all about seizing that moment. He’s played — and played very well at times — over the course of 48 career playoff games.

The Sixers got a taste against the Hornets of just how much of a boost Belinelli can give a team when he’s on target. The 10-year veteran scored 21 points off the bench and contributed five of the Sixers’ 18 threes as he sharpens his game for the major challenge on the horizon.

“It’s huge,” Simmons said of finding shooters such as Belinelli and Covington in addition to JJ Redick in close games. “It’s just the way we’ve been playing all year.”

With Justin Anderson now back in the rotation and contributing, it could be the performance of secondary guys that keep the Sixers playing longer than anyone expected before the season started.