Johnson making increased presence felt for C's


BOSTON - The game had been over for a while and Amir Johnson had already showered, changed, and spoken with the media.

But as he walked out of the locker room Monday night after the Celtics' 107-96 win over the Magic, he was still wiping the sweat off his forehead.

Johnson logged 34 minutes of playing time in Monday's game, the second-most for him in a game this season and most since a Nov. 13th win over the Hawks (36 minutes).

He finished with a double-double, his sixth of the season, after scoring 11 points on 5-for-6 shooting and grabbing 11 rebounds. He added two assists and three blocks.

The performance came one day after scoring a season-high 18 points on 9-for-10 shooting with eight rebounds and two blocks in 24 minutes against the 76ers, another Celtics win.

With Jae Crowder still out with a high ankle sprain, Johnson has seen his minutes increase with the C's going bigger for longer stretches. After averaging 15.2 minutes per game through the first five games in March, Johnson is averaging 26.4 minutes per game over the last five games.

It's the most he's played over that stretch of time since early-to-mid January, when he played at least 26 minutes in seven of nine games.

“He has really played well," Brad Stevens said after Monday's game. "The second-half of Indiana on he was pretty good and that continued through the road trip. He made huge plays tonight defensively at the rim. That’s what we need him to do. He is a very talented, athletic, very smart guy. He knows what’s coming in a lot of situations because he has played in the league so long. He can provide some resistance that quite frankly, other guys don’t have the physical ability to provide at the rim. He did that tonight in huge moments.”

Johnson has aparently taken Tyler Zeller's minutes as well, as the other C's big man has seen a reverse in his minutes in March, going from 24 against the Blazers on Mar. 2 to a DNP-CD Monday night.

Zeller is clearly a better shooter than Johnson, but Stevens isn't playing Johnson for his offense, but rather his defense. The offense is something they'll take if it's given to him.

"You play against a team like Philadelphia and maybe they are more spread out on your shooters," Stevens said. "You play against a team like Orlando that is really going to pack it in. You have to roll just to create that congestion for the shooter so that the shooter gets the shot. [Johnson] may have a less effective offensive day just because of style of play with Orlando, but still has to do all of those roles unselfishly to get somebody else open.”

If Johnson was playing through ankle issues earlier this season, he appears fine now. He's active on both ends of the court and keeps up with his team's fast style of play.

"He’s doing everything for us," Isaiah Thomas said. "He’s running the floor, he’s defending, he’s playing with a lot of energy. I don’t know what it is. He’s definitely helping us though and we’re loving it."

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