ATLANTA - Asked if he was happy with the number of touches he got in Game 4, Joe Johnson uttered just one word: “No,’’ he said. That was all.
Johnson took only eight shots in the 101-79 Game 4 debacle against the Celtics and made just four. That number of attempts was down significantly from the first three games, in which Johnson took 15 shots in Game 1, 17 in Game 2, and 28 in Game 3, the last total without power forward Josh Smith.
“I don’t think they’re doing nothing different defensively on me,’’ Johnson said. “I think it’s basically just getting the opportunity to touch the ball. That’s it.’’
The Celtics have been bearing down on Johnson, swarming him particularly at the end of regulation in Game 3, forcing him to pass - one resulted in a Willie Green miss that would have given the Hawks a late lead.
Even with the defensive pressure, Johnson believes he needs to do more, take more shots, be the leader the Hawks require to take another game and extend the series. Atlanta is trailing, 3-1, and must win at Philips Arena Tuesday night.
“We got him the ball in Game 3,’’ guard Jeff Teague said. “Got a lot of touches. But [Sunday] night I think they just took us out of our stuff, pretty difficult to get him the ball. But we’ll try to make a conscious effort in Game 5 to get him the ball, make sure he can make plays for us.
“He’s our go-to player. Eight shots is not enough, especially in a playoff game for a guy that can play like him. Got to make sure we can get him the ball.’’
Both coach Larry Drew and center Al Horford mentioned that Johnson has to be more aggressive, has to work harder to get his shots.
“Joe, he’s our main guy,’’ Horford said. “We go to him at the end of games. He has to get us going usually offensively. He just needs to go out there and be an enforcer and make his presence felt. I don’t think that my shots or Erick Dampier’s shots or things like that are affecting him.
“I think, if anything, Joe just needs to be aggressive, needs to go out there and score the ball. That’s when we’re at our best when he does that.’’
Horford said that it’s not only that Johnson needs to be more aggressive, it’s that he needs to make the right passes and the right decisions when the Celtics defensive pressure comes.
If Johnson is being double-teamed, Horford said, he has to get rid of the ball, and to the right place.
“Let’s get the ball moving,’’ Horford said. “When we move the ball, that’s when we play our best.’’
At the end of Game 3, the Hawks moved the ball, did what they were supposed to. They got the ball to Green, who took a shot within his range - except he missed it. And even though the ball movement was correct, even though the Hawks did the right thing, the team would feel much more comfortable with Johnson getting that shot, or just getting more in general.
“We need him to get shots,’’ Drew said. “When he’s on the floor, we run a lot of things through him. I think Boston is defending him, at times they’re doubling, at times they’re switching. They’re doing a number of things. They’re crowding him, making it tough for him. We’ve got to get him more shots.
“We do run a lot of things through him. He’s got to be more aggressive, and working to get his shots. But we have to be mindful of when he hasn’t had a shot in one or two trips down the floor, we’ve got to get him the ball.’’
Getting shots wasn’t Johnson’s only concern. He said the team had issues reintegrating Horford (12 points, 6 of 10 shooting), who hadn’t played since Jan. 11. Both Horford and Drew dispute that suggestion.
“It just seems a little tough,’’ Johnson said. “Whether the rotations are different, guys don’t know when they’re going to play.
“When you’ve got the whole team back together and we all haven’t played together since January, then it is kind of tough coming into Game 4 of the playoffs. That’s a big adjustment.’’
Added Jannero Pargo, “I think Al played great, but for the other four guys out there, it’s going to be an adjustment period. Hopefully we can get it corrected ASAP.’’
There was much to correct after Game 4, after the Hawks were obliterated by the Celtics. Horford said the entire team needs to be aggressive, and there were calls from others to play with more intensity, something apparently lacking Sunday night.
The worst condemnations, though, came from Johnson.
“It was ugly to be a part of,’’ Johnson said. “I know it was ugly to watch.
“The way we played, there’s no way we can win like that. I don’t know what it’s going to take for us to win the next one, but we’ve got to try and find a way.’’Amalie Benjamin can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org. Follow her on Twitter @amaliebenjamin.