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.”


 

Celtics-Wizards preview: Boston needs to solve Washington's defense

Celtics-Wizards preview: Boston needs to solve Washington's defense

BOSTON –  Both Boston and Washington know the winner of Game 5 by no means will automatically advance to the Eastern Conference finals. 

But there is no getting around the fact that both teams view this game, certainly more than any other, as the game to get if you’re going to win this series. 

Boston comes in feeling good about its chances of getting back on track now that the series has shifted back to Boston where they won Games 1 and 2. 

Meanwhile, Washington is hoping to build off a pair of strong wins in Games 3 and 4 in Washington, hoping the momentum they believe they have now will carry over in what will be an extremely intense, competitive game. 

“They’re going to play hard,” said Boston’s Kelly Olynyk. “They’re trying to get a win so they can go home and close it out. We’re trying to get a win so we can go there and close it out.”

The Celtics know all about the potential consequences, good and bad, that come about with tonight’s Game 5 battle. 

But as he has preached all season, Celtics head coach Brad Stevens isn’t looking any further ahead than what transpires after tonight’s jump ball.

“You have to win four games to move on, you gotta lose four games to be done,” Stevens said. “There’s a lot of play that goes into that. You just focus on the possession at hand, you stay in the moment the best that you can. As I told our guys (Monday), you got the best two out of three to go to the Eastern conference finals. Our focus has to be on the first possession (tonight).” 

Here are a few nuggets to chomp on leading up to tonight’s Game 5 matchup between the Boston Celtics and the Washington Wizards.

MEDICAL UPDATE: Boston: Avery Bradley (hip) is probable; Washington: None

WHO’S HOT

Wizards defense: They are coming off an impressive 121-102 victory in Game 4, a game in which their defense gave the Celtics major fits by forcing 36 turnovers which has led to 51 points in the last two games. 

John Wall: If this series had an MVP after four games, Wall is your guy. He’s averaging a double-double of 28.8 points and 11.1 assists per game which speaks to his ability to not just score but also set up his teammates for baskets as well.

Terry Rozier: Yes, I know. He got a good chunk of his 16 points off the bench in garbage time during Game 4 when the outcome was all but decided. I get it. But that doesn’t take away from the fact that when he’s on the floor, good things have usually happened for Boston in this series. In the four games, Rozier has a plus/minus of +44 which not surprisingly, is tops among all Celtics.

WHO’S NOT

Avery Bradley: He has done more than enough to establish himself as one of the better two-way players in the NBA, but he’s still looking to get on track offensively. In Game 4, Bradley had five points on 2-for-9 shooting. 

Jae Crowder: You have to love what he’s been doing on the boards and defensively, but it is his shot-making that has really failed him the last couple of games. After scoring a career playoff-high 24 points in Boston’s Game 1 win, Crowder has totaled just 34 points in the Celtics’ last three games and has shot just 35.7 percent from the field.

Road team woes: Four games into this series and the home team has won each game by at least double figures. It is a trend that the Celtics hope to continue tonight as they try and go up three games to two in the best-of-seven series. 

BOSTON WINS IF … 

  • Good Start: Boston has fallen behind by double digits in the first quarter of every game but Game 4 in this series, so a better effort and crisper execution at the start of the game would go far in their quest to take a 3-2 series lead.
  • Rebound battles: Boston isn’t expected to dominate the glass, but keeping it close is well within their range of ability. In Boston’s Game 1 and 2 wins, they were tied 38-all in Game 1 and minus-3 (44-41) in Game 2. The Game 3 and 4 losses saw the Celtics outrebounded by 12 and 14, respectively.
  • Help for Thomas: Boston had a pair of 20-plus point scorers in Game 1 besides Isaiah Thomas. They’ll need similar offensive balance to take home Game 5. Because as good as Thomas is, he needs his teammates to make shots to loosen up a Wizards defense that’s totally locked onto him. 

WASHINGTON WINS IF … 

  • Wall-to-Wall Coverage: John Wall has been an absolute beast in this series, putting this Wizards team on his back time and time again. He has been the catalyst for their play for the most part in this series and will certainly lead the charge tonight if they are to build off the momentum they gained from Game 3 and 4 wins in Washington.
  • Backup Power: Washington’s second unit has won the battle of the backup units in the last two games. Their play isn’t just about scoring, it’s about making an impact. And when you look at this series and Washington’s two wins at home, Bojan Bogdanovic (16.5 points per game in Games 3 and 4) along with a solid defensive presence by Ian Mahinmi have been important players in Washington winning the last two games with relative ease.
  • Otto Porter Jr.: The unsung hero of this playoff series for Washington, Porter Jr. has been a major contributor in so many ways. In the last two games, he averaged 18.5 points, eight rebounds and 3.5 steals while shooting 15-for-22 (68.1 percent) from the field.

Jennings on physical series with Celtics: 'Nobody wants to go home'

Jennings on physical series with Celtics: 'Nobody wants to go home'

WASHINGTON – Brandon Jennings makes no secret that part of his game involves trying to mentally get into the head of his opponents.

And his target among the Boston Celtics?

That would be Terry Rozier who has had a couple of run-ins with Jennings this season, the most recent leading to both players getting tossed in Washington’s 116-89 Game 3 win.

They were each whistled for a technical foul with 10:36 to play in the fourth quarter due to their usual back-and-forth jawing with one another. And when they continued afterward,  the officials – wanting to make sure things didn’t get out of control and escalate into a bigger deal – whistled both players for a second technical foul just 42 seconds later which meant an automatic ejection for both players.

Jennings said the second technical foul picked up by both players was Rozier’s fault.

“I think it was because he (Rozier) just kept it going,” Jennings said on Friday. “I think they just threw us both out. We’re competitive and it’s the playoffs. Guys don’t want to show any type of weakness at all. Just two guys competing.”

But here’s the thing.

This series is full of guys competing, at every position.

There will be the usual smack talk, obviously.

Pushing, poking, hard fouls and hard screens?

Yup, that’s all on tap as well.

But there’s something different about Rozier and Jennings, something that seems to lead to both players getting under the other’s skin almost immediately upon stepping on the floor.

When these two met on March 20 in the regular-season finale, Jennings was whistled for a technical foul involving Rozier which seemed to be the jumping off-point in the unexpected disdain between these two which has carried over into what has been a very contentious playoff series thus far.

 “This series is going to be feisty, for one,” Jennings said. “It’s two teams competing. Both our goals is getting to the Eastern conference finals and also win a ring. For us, we took their first punches in Boston and we felt that. We wanted to come in Game 3 and do the same thing they did to us.”

The Wizards did just that, dominating the Celtics in every significant phase of play.

Rebounds. Assists. Points in the paint. Second-chance points.

You name the statistical category and the Celtics were owned by the Wizards in it.

And with Game 4 on the horizon, fans can bank on another testy, physical game between these two who have made it the worst kept secret in the nation’s capital that they do not like each other.

“It (Game 3) was very physical,” Jennings said. “I woke up this morning sore and I didn’t play that much.  I was just sore from all the mental, all the wuffing and elbows and things like that. It’s definitely going to be physical, but that’s what the playoffs are all about. Nobody wants to go home.”