BOSTON — He lay there on the floor in front of the Celtics bench, clutching his left ankle in pain.
It was a familiar sight for the Celtics, who lost Jae Crowder to a left ankle sprain in the second quarter of Wednesday’s 107-100 win over the Chicago Bulls. Just a few weeks ago, they watched Marcus Smart lay on the same side on the court holding his ankle after stepping on a Knicks defender. Smart made his return Wednesday after sitting out two weeks.
When Crowder landed from a jumper on Rajon Rondo’s foot in the second quarter, his ankle viciously rolled over. He rolled in pain for a few seconds before getting to his feet and rapidly hopping back to the locker room on right foot. He bolted so fast that his teammates couldn’t even get to him to help him off.
The Celtics diagnosed Crowder with a left ankle sprain and ruled him out for the game. Coach Brad Stevens ruled Crowder out for at least a week, but likely more.
On the other hand, Amir Johnson did his best Ray Allen tribute. The Big Dog hit a career-high four threes, all in a row in the third quarter. His 23 points in 29 minutes were the most he has scored since January 30, 2015 when he still played for the Toronto Raptors.
Amir Johnson cans his FOURTH trey of the night! He's a perfect 4-for-4 from downtown! pic.twitter.com/eGKEfrk2hz— Boston Celtics (@celtics) November 3, 2016
Plus he pulled this wonder move off:
Amir Johnson with the beautiful post move. Jk idk what the heck this is pic.twitter.com/0HkE0qWeMC— Full Court Prez (@fullcourtprez) November 3, 2016
Amir and Zeller helped the Celtics offense function with the same style as when Horford is on the floor, who was out with a concussion.
“Both those guys did a really good job. Both those guys are really good players,” Stevens said. “One thing about Amir is when he plays with Al a lot of times, he’s the roller and Al’s the guy that plays on the perimeter. But tonight he’s the guy that plays on the perimeter and Tyler’s the guy that rolls a little bit more.”
It was a shock for the Bulls, whose game plan was fine tuned after the news that Horford would be out to give Johnson as many threes as he wanted. Dwyane Wade and Taj Gibson noted multiple times after the game that the scouting report said that when it comes to Tall Money Johnson, the goal is to have him settle for a three.
“This was not on the scouting report,” Wade said. “We don’t mean disrespect to the guy, but that’s the shots that you want. Tonight it was the shot that he wanted. And he got ’em.”
Johnson stuggles to put the ball on the floor from behind the arc and does not roll to the basket well when catching screen-and-roll passes above the free throw line. So playing him short cuts off most of his opportunities to move into his comfort zone and coax him into an open three. But this was one of those rare occasions where it backfired.
Taj said 4 times that the scouting report was to play Amir short on close outs to make him shoot it. "THAT wasn't in the scouting report."— Jared Weiss (@JaredWeissNBA) November 3, 2016
But despite Amir’s heroics, the Bulls went on a 23-9 run from the nine-minute mark to the two-minute mark in the fourth quarter to tie the game. The opponent was once again crushing the Celtics on the boards, as highlighted by a comical four-rebound possession for the Bulls that ended with a Bobby Portis layup slowly rolling in.
“They got three or four offensive rebounds on that one play, but we were small on that one,” Stevens said. “We gotta get better at not fouling. I thought our offense was good and we executed well, but we gotta be more sound defensively at that time.”
The Celtics were able to right the ship when Isaiah Thomas flew to the rim like a speeding bullet to hit the layup and regain a three-point lead.
After Rajon Rondo nearly air balled a pull-up from 20 feet, the Celtics had their own string of offensive rebounds thanks to a crucial Amir Johnson tip back to the perimeter. Brad Stevens called a timeout and possibly drew up a play that ended with Marcus Smart hitting an impressive running hook shot over Bobby Portis.
After a pair of stops on the next Bulls possession out of the timeout, Jonas Jerebko grabbed the board and iced the game at the line.
Just interviewed Rajon Rondo in a pair of uggs slippers because tonight has been bizarro sports world.— Jared Weiss (@JaredWeissNBA) November 3, 2016