Lee re-discovers his championship-caliber defense

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Lee re-discovers his championship-caliber defense

BOSTON - Courtney Lee had a breakout game offensively Thursday night in Brooklyn with 18 points.

But it was his defense that literally stole the show in Boston's blowout win.

For all that the C's did well defensively against the Nets, no one seemed to benefit more than Lee who began the game with the first of his game-high four steals which led to a dunk.

Even more impressive was the defensive job he did on Joe Johnson which was among the keys to Boston playing with a lead the entire night.

Johnson had 11 points on 4-for-14 shooting which included him missing eight of his nine shots in the first half with Lee being the primary defender on him most of the time.

"I'm just a competitor," Lee told Comcast SportsNet. "I like that. He (Johnson) is an All-Star player. So what better player to go up against to test your defense than an All-Star player?"

Celtics coach Doc Rivers sees Lee returning to the better-than-average form he displayed earlier in his career with Orlando.

"Courtney was the best defender on the floor," Rivers said. "He does a lot of tough things."

And he goes about it in a quiet, unassuming manner. But don't let the soft spoken demeanor fool you.

"He doesn't say too much, but he's competitive, man," said Paul Pierce. "He doesn't care who you are. He's always confident in his defense and we are, too."

Added Rivers: "Courtney's important for us. We want a defensive unit to start games."

And that likely means Lee will be in the starting lineup at shooting guard instead of Jason Terry.

"Start, come off the bench. It doesn't matter to me," Lee said. "We have enough talent that there's really no let-off in whoever is out there. Me, JT (Jason Terry), we both can impact games."

Terry, a former Sixth man of the year award winner (2009), is known for his clutch, long-range shooting.

Meanwhile, Lee is laying the groundwork to establish himself as a top flight defender. Rivers isn't surprised to see Lee perform at a high level defensively.

"We thought he was (a good defender)," Rivers said. "He was in Orlando."

Lee's rookie season with the Magic ended with a trip to the NBA Finals, the only team he has played with that was a legit title contender.

And it's not a coincidence that his defense since then hasn't stood out as much ... until now.

"The last winning team he was on, yes, he was a heck of a defender," Rivers said. "And now he's getting that back again which is good."

Amir Johnson a game-time decision for Game 4 with shoulder injury

Amir Johnson a game-time decision for Game 4 with shoulder injury


CLEVELAND – Brad Stevens won’t know until shortly before tip-off tonight if he will have to make another lineup change.
 
Amir Johnson, whose right shoulder was injured in the Celtics' 111-108 Game 3 win on Sunday, is questionable for tonight’s Game 4.
 
“It’s better for sure,” Johnson told CSN this morning. “Yesterday, it was hard to lift. Today, I can move it all around. In shoot-around, I’m going to get a couple shots, see how it feels and go from there.
 
He added, “it’s definitely going to be a game-time decision. I’m going to go and shoot around, just to get a feel. And then for the game-time, I’ll shoot around some more, see how it feels and take it from there.”
 
Healthy or not, Johnson being with the starting group is far from a given.
 
The 6-foot-9 veteran has consistently been the first starter subbed out and usually winds up playing the fewest minutes.
 
In Game 3, two of his backups – Kelly Olynyk (15 points) and Jonas Jerebko (10 points) – shined brightly.
 
Here are some other highlights from the Celtics’ morning shoot-around.
 
THOMAS UPDATE: Isaiah Thomas met with a hip specialist on Monday, according to Stevens. “Still collecting information,” said Stevens, adding, “We’ll wait and see or we’ll discuss second, and third, and fourth, and fifth opinions.”

Thomas injured his right hip March 15 and later re-aggravated it in the first half of the Game 2 loss Friday. Less than 24 hours later, he was deemed out for the remainder of the playoffs.
 
He was replaced by Marcus Smart in the starting lineup and Smart responded with a career-high 27 points in Game 3, which included seven made 3’s which is a career-best mark as well.
 
BOUNCE-BACK CELTICS: The Celtics winning Game 3 sent shockwaves throughout the league, especially coming on the heels of a 44-point home court drubbing at the hands of the Cavs. “If you’re in sports long enough you’re going to have clunkers,” Stevens said. “You’re going to have games that don’t go your way. And our guys took seriously the idea of responding and just playing the next possession as well as they could.”
 
ROZIER HOMECOMING: The second-year guard grew up in nearby Youngstown, Ohio (75 miles southeast of Cleveland), so you can expect he’ll have a decent contingent of fans at tonight's game.
 
While he’s all-in for the Celtics, the same is not true of his friends and some family members.
 
“My family does a good job of staying on my side except for my one younger cousin,” Rozier said. “She loves LeBron.”