The Boston Celtics are a pretty motivated team these days.
Disrespect one of their own?
Oh, it’s on now.
The Houston Rockets found this out the hard way on Monday as the Celtics used what they saw as disrespect to one of their own (Amir Johnson) as added incentive to not just win but to do so in a convincing fashion.
The end result was a 111-95 Celtics victory, a game that for most of the second half wasn’t even that close.
And it all started with 6:45 to play in the third quarter and the Celtics in transition.
Johnson was filling the lane when Marcus Smart threw him a pass. The ball sailed off Johnson’s hands and went out of bounds, with Houston’s Terrence Jones trailing Johnson (he fell to the court out of bounds) on the play.
Johnson was on the floor with the ball underneath his left arm. Jones, standing over Johnson, reached for the ball before Johnson could get to his feet.
Moments later, players from both teams were surrounding Jones and Johnson, which is when the officials stepped in with their whistles.
After the play was reviewed, Isaiah Thomas, James Harden and Jones were whistled for technical fouls.
Boston led 61-60 at the time of the play.
They followed that with a 26-8 run that put the game well out of Houston’s reach.
After the game, Boston’s Jae Crowder explained why he and his teammates were upset about the incident.
“We had a guy down and their guy (Jones) kind of straddled (Johnson) and wouldn’t let our guy up,” Crowder said. “We saw it as a sign of disrespect. We just came to his rescue, and we weren’t having it. That’s what sparked it.”
Thomas had similar thoughts on the incident.
“I just went to go protect my teammate,” Thomas told reporters after the game. “It was very disrespectful to stand over somebody.”
As for his role and the technical foul he was whistled for, Thomas said he was surprised when the refs T’d him up.
“Me, I don’t know how me and Harden got one; we weren’t even talking,” Thomas said. “We’re pretty good friends. I don’t know.”
What is known is that the Celtics were a different, more dominant team from that moment on.
And it now has the Celtics (6-4) riding a three-game winning streak, with all three wins (Atlanta, Oklahoma City and Houston) over teams that are expected to make deep playoff runs this season.
Celtics head coach Brad Stevens, who is now two games over-.500 for the first time as Boston’s head coach, was asked about knocking off a trio of playoff-caliber foes.
“It doesn’t matter now,” Stevens said. “We’ve played 10 games. If we’re in a good position after 65 or 70, maybe we’ll look at it differently. Everyone is trying to find themselves now. We’ve got to get better too.”