When Amir Johnson broke into the league in Detroit, he was not looked upon to deliver much of a scoring punch.
He spent six years in Toronto and Johnson still didn’t get much love as a scorer despite ranking among the NBA’s best in terms of field goal percentage.
Johnson has made no secret about seeing Boston as a place where he can write a new chapter in what has been a solid NBA career.
And the narrative on Wednesday night, his first as a starter for Boston, was that he could defend, rebound and score … a lot.
Several players stepped up their play in Boston’s 109-105 win at Brooklyn, but no one stood out like Johnson.
For starters, he led all scorers with 19 points on 7-for-10 shooting which included a pair of 3s – a shot Johnson doesn’t take very often.
And for those who were surprised by Johnson’s offensive explosion, you weren’t alone.
“He hasn’t scored it like that every day in practice,” Celtics head coach Brad Stevens told reporters following Wednesday’s win. “But Amir has been a threat to make shots every day. He’s probably made forty percent of his threes in practice. That might be four out of 10, but he’s very capable.”
Especially when teams do what Brooklyn did early on in Wednesday’s game, and leave him open.
But when Brooklyn decided to not allow him free looks, Johnson wisely put the ball on the floor and attacked the rim off the dribble.
It was the kind of inside-outside game that could make an improved Celtics team even more difficult to match up against for opposing teams.
“It’s all about adjusting,” Johnson told Comcast SportsNet’s Abby Chin after the game. “Knowing your atmosphere, knowing the players you’re playing with and just recognizing stuff and years of being in the NBA.”
As good as Johnson was scoring the ball, there was no letdown in what he brought to the game defensively.
The 6-foot-9 big man had a defensive rating of 93.2, with only Tyler Zeller (83.5) having a better rating among Boston’s big men.
“He just knows how to play; both ends,” Stevens said. “He makes easy plays with the ball. And defensively he makes everybody better. We saw a bunch of possessions today where he was the one that kind of held the fort together as other people were scrambling back and getting back to (their men).”
In an earlier interview with CSNNE.com, Johnson acknowledged that there’s more to his game offensively than most people realize.
“I do what my team needs me to do in order to win,” Johnson told CSNNE.com. “Most of the time, that’s play good defense and rebound. But I can score, too. When the opportunity is there to do it, I’ll score.”