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Amir Johnson flashes different dimension of his game with 4 treys in Wednesday’s win 11.03.16 at 11:21 am ET
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Amir Johnson

Amir Johnson

In a tilt against the Bulls on Wednesday night that taught a lot about the Celtics, arguably the biggest lesson was one that not many people would expect.

Amir Johnson can shoot from the perimeter.

Now, maybe it’s a bit premature to start throwing him in with the likes of Peja Stojakovic, but the 6-foot-9 veteran showed a different dimension of his game than previously seen during his first year and change with the Celtics.

He attempted (and missed) one other 3-pointer this season, but after going 4-for-4 from deep, he now qualifies for league leader considerations in 3-point percentage. And believe it or not, he leads the league with an .800 3-point percentage.

“I don’t think I was on the scouting report for ‘Running Amir off the line,’ ” Johnson joked following the game. “It was just a good night for me.”

That’s not to say it will stay that way — because in all likelihood it won’t — but after Johnson almost never ventured out to the perimeter with the Pistons, but then wandered out more in his time with the Raptors, it probably shouldn’t be a total surprise he’s capable of pulling the trigger from downtown.

“I’m always able to shoot,” Johnson said. “Guys can shoot in the league. It’s just in our offense, you know? I try to always play team ball. I’m a very unselfish player. I look to pass first, but I was able to just find open spots and knock down shots within our offense.

“I prefer to roll and get that soft touch, but if guys are just laying off and giving me that much time, like [Robin Lopez] likes to sit in the paint, then I’m going to shoot the ball.”

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Jae Crowder (sprained left ankle) expected to miss at least a week 11.03.16 at 11:07 am ET
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Jae Crowder

Jae Crowder

The Celtics will look to build off of their 3-1 record without Jae Crowder for at least a week, according to coach Brad Stevens. 

Crowder suffered a left ankle sprain in the second quarter of Wednesday night’s 107-100 win over the Bulls at TD Garden. He is the second player in the front court to sustain an injury this week for the Celtics.

Al Horford, who was placed in the NBA’s concussion protocol program on Tuesday, will not be making the trip to Cleveland for Thursday night’s game against the Cavaliers, and Stevens doesn’t expect to see Crowder back on the floor in the near future. 

“Jae sprained his ankle,” Brad Stevens said. “That’s all I know. I was told that it would be at least a week and then we’ll see after, but I don’t think we’re into it enough to make an assessment on that timeline. It doesn’t sound like he’ll be back anytime soon.”

Crowder came down on Rajon Rondo’s foot after making a jumping pass and hit the floor for a moment before he hopped off the court and straight to the Celtics locker room. 

All-Star Isaiah Thomas knows losing Crowder is a tough blow to his team, but he reminded everyone that the Celtics were in a similar position last season when the C’s were forced to play without their starting small forward.

“[It’s] very tough,” Thomas said after the Celtics’ win against the Bulls. “Last year we lost a back-to-back and beat the Warriors in their arena without Jae Crowder. There’s no excuses, they’re not going to feel sorry for us. Get our rest tonight and be ready for prime-time TV tomorrow.”

Thomas is confident in the Celtics’ depth and said he believes guys can come up big on the road against the Cavaliers. 

“We have a lot of good players who can step in at any given time,” Thomas said. “That’s our strength, our depth, and we have to keep going. Hopefully we can sneak one out of Cleveland.”

Read More: Brad Stevens, Jae Crowder,
Marcus Smart shines defensively, struggles on offense in season debut 11.03.16 at 12:31 am ET
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Marcus Smart

Marcus Smart

In his season debut, Marcus Smart reminded everyone why he’s so important to the Celtics.

While his offensive touch might have been off, his defensive prowess shined against the Bulls and their brightest stars.  

Smart rattled the Bulls’ one-two punch of Dwyane Wade and Jimmy Butler. He forced them to take awkward shots from the perimeter, pressured them in the back court and was physical with both All-Stars when they penetrated the paint. 

In other words, Smart being Smart. 

Butler, who finished with 23 points on 8-of-21 shots, had trouble finding his rhythm offensively. The same could be said for Wade. The star who finished off the Celtics just a week earlier with a late 3-pointer, finished with 15 points on the night, on 5-of-13 shooting from the field. Both Bulls go-to scorers shot below 40-percent and Smart, who didn’t play in the Celtics’ only loss this season in Chicago, was a big key in slowing them down. 

His defensive play earned him nearly 34 minutes of playing time off the bench, and was a big reason why he was still in the game at the end of the fourth quarter. Smart finished with seven points, including a game-changing running hook shot out of a timeout called by Brad Stevens with 25.2 seconds left that made it a two-possession game (105-100).

“It kind of just happened,” Smart said. “I was supposed to get a ball right to Isaiah [Thomas], but he was getting double-played so I just made a play.”

How often does Smart practice hook shots?

“I actually work on those, work on getting it high off the glass,” Smart said. “I just figured if I could get to the spot and put it up there it’d be a good shot to go in.”

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Fast Break: Amir Johnson, Isaiah Thomas each put up 23 points as Celtics survive against Bulls 11.02.16 at 10:38 pm ET
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Nov 2, 2016; Boston, MA, USA;  Chicago Bulls guard / forward Jimmy Butler (21) is guarded by Boston Celtics forward / center Amir Johnson (90) during the second quarter at TD Garden. Mandatory Credit: Greg M. Cooper-USA TODAY Sports

Amir Johnson was an offensive and defensive force for the Celtics Wednesday, here guarding Jimmy Butler. (Greg M. Cooper/USA Today Sports)

While one Chicago team was in pursuit of ending a 108-year championship drought, another was giving the Celtics a heart attack in the C’s 107-100 win over the Bulls.

Leading by 16 points in the fourth quarter, the Celtics squandered yet another lead at home, letting the Bulls tie the game with less than two minutes left in the fourth. Despite the late surge, the Celtics fended off the Bulls, scoring five unanswered points after the Bulls evened the game.

“We’ve got to play better in that situation,” Celtics coach Brad Stevens said. “I thought our offense was good and executed well, but we’ve got to be more sound defensively in that time.”

Amir Johnson had arguably his most memorable game in green, dropping 23 points on the Bulls, including four 3-pointers on as many attempts. He had three assists and five rebounds as well. 

“I was just feeling good,” Johnson said. “I’m always able to shoot, guys can shoot in the league, it’s just in our offense I’ve always played team ball and been a very unselfish player, [tonight] I was just able to find open shots and knock down shots.”

Isaiah Thomas turned in a double-double performance, scoring 23 points while dishing out 10 assists.

In his season debut, guard Marcus Smart was quiet offensively, turning the ball over six times in his 33 minutes of work, but was solid on the defensive end. He managed to grab five boards with one steal.

With legitimate concern surrounding the Celtics frontcourt with the absence of Al Horford, the C’s were more than adept on the glass against a Bulls team that dominated them in rebounding during their last meeting less than a week ago. While the C’s were outrebounded 49-39 Wednesday, it was an improvement compared to them getting worked over 55-36 on the glass on Thursday.

“[Tyler Zeller and Amir Johnson] did a really good job. Both those guys are good players,” Stevens said. “We talked about Tyler’s reliability off the bench, and you know one thing about Al: When he plays with Al, a lot of times he’s the roller and Al’s the guy that plays on the perimeter. And tonight Tyler was is the roller and [Johnson] is on the perimeter more.”

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Celtics Pregame Notes: Al Horford out next two games with concussion; Tyler Zeller starts Wednesday 11.02.16 at 6:46 pm ET
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Al Horford

Al Horford

For the first time this season, the Celtics starting lineup will not include Al Horford — and it will be that way for a at least two games.

The Celtics center will miss Wednesday’s game against the Bulls as part of the NBA concussion protocol, being replaced by Tyler Zeller. Horford suffered the injury on Monday in practice when a teammate swiped for a ball and got Horford in the head. After feeling fine Monday night and into Tuesday morning, Horford was too nauseous to complete Tuesday’s practice.

He won’t travel with the team either for Thursday’s game against the Cavs.

According to head coach Brad Stevens, “He felt better today but still had some symptoms, and you have to be 24 hours symptom-free before resuming activity, and if any symptoms come up after that 24 hours once you resume activity it restarts itself. So we’ll see how he feels tomorrow, but he will not be on the trip, he will not play [Wednesday or Thursday].”

With Horford’s absence clearing the way for Zeller to get a start, it is another testament to the 7-footers flexibility in minutes.

After spending most of last season deep in the bench, he’s averaged 16.3 minutes so far this season, including 20 minutes, 18 seconds when the Celtics played the Bulls last Thursday.

“Tyler has been there, done that here and we talked about Tyler’s value extending beyond just a typical role when fully healthy is that he’s been a guy that’s started games for us, started big games for us and has played really well and is able to both. He’s able to come off the bench or start,” Stevens said.

“With his size, with their rebounding, we’re going to need guys to get them off the glass. It doesn’t mean that he’ll get every rebound, we’ll need our guards to rebound as our bigs are blocking out a lot.”

Other Celtics Notes: — Marcus Smart will make his season debut after missing the first three games with a left ankle sprain. Avery Bradley will be available as well, after receiving a cortisone shot Tuesday. Stevens indicated both will be free of any minutes restrictions. 

Read More: Al Horford, Avery Bradley, Marcus Smart, Tyler Zeller
Al Horford will miss Bulls game while in concussion protocol program; Avery Bradley has shoulder examined 11.02.16 at 12:26 pm ET
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Al Horford

Al Horford

The Celtics will be without Al Horford for Wednesday night’s game at TD Garden against the Bulls, as the center was placed in the NBA’s concussion protocol program.

According to the team, Horford was hit in the head during Monday’s practice, although he did not show any concussion symptoms on Monday night or Tuesday morning. During Tuesday’s practice, Horford started to show symptoms, so he was removed from the court and examined by team physicians. He was placed in the concussion protocol program Tuesday night.

Meanwhile, Avery Bradley missed Tuesday’s practice with a sore right shoulder — an issue he’s been dealing with since training camp. Coach Brad Stevens said the team’s medical staff will determine the guard’s availability for Wednesday. Bradley had two shoulder surgeries (both sides) after the 2011-12 season.

Bradley, 25, is coming off a tremendous performance in a win over the Hornets on Saturday night, as he amassed 31 points, 11 rebounds and eight 3-pointers. Through three games he is averaging 21.3 points, 8.7 rebounds and 4.7 assists.

On the positive side for Boston, guard Marcus Smart will make his season debut Wednesday after being sidelined with a sprained ankle.

Read More: Al Horford, Avery Bradley, Marcus Smart,
Ray Allen announces retirement from NBA via The Players’ Tribune 11.01.16 at 1:07 pm ET
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Ray Allen

Ray Allen

Ray Allen is finally retiring.

The two-time champion and former Celtics great, who hasn’t played since the Heat lost the 2014 Finals to the Spurs, announced his retirement in a letter to his 13-year-old self on the Players’ Tribune website.

“I write this to you today as a 41-year-old man who is retiring from the game,” Allen wrote. “I write to you as a man who is completely at peace with himself.”

Allen had entertained the notion of returning to the NBA over the last year-plus, with old teammate LeBron James trying to convince him to join the Cleveland Cavaliers. But Allen declined, and made his retirement official on Tuesday.

Allen won a title with the Celtics in 2008, joining Paul Pierce and Kevin Garnett in the team’s new Big Three. Garnett retired this winter, and Pierce has announced that this season, with the Clippers, will be his last.

Allen retires as the NBA’s all-time leader in 3-pointers made (2,973) and attempted (7,429). He shot .400 from beyond the arc and scored over 24,000 points, good for 22nd on the all-time list.

Allen spent five years in Boston, where he averaged 16.7 points a game and made three All-Star teams.

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