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Celtics Notebook

Johnson shows off improved skills in Celtics’ preseason win

After not playing the last game, the Celtics’ Amir Johnson (90) gets some time defending against the Nets’ Thaddeus Young (30). Al Bello/Getty Images

NEW YORK — If there was any question about whether Amir Johnson worked on his game during his free agent season or whether he was prepared for a court return after nine days off, he took a mere nine minutes to answer.

Johnson was signed by the Celtics for his defensive prowess but showed improved offensive skills in Wednesday’s 109-105 preseason win against Brooklyn, scoring 17 points in 25 minutes, including two 3-pointers.

The 3-point shot has long been something Johnson wanted to add to his arsenal. Toronto coach Dwane Casey made a deal with Johnson: If he played strong defense and was wide open, he could attempt the occasional corner 3-pointer.

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The result was 112 attempts over the past two years (39 makes), compared with 29 his first eight NBA seasons. And he perhaps settled the concerns of his new coach Brad Stevens, with his pair of threes in the opening period.

Stevens wanted to be sure his new forward/center got some quality minutes after such a long layoff. Johnson finished with 17 points, 4 rebounds, 2 steals, and 2 rebounds in 17 first-half minutes.

“Amir hasn’t scored like that every day in practice but he’s been a threat to make shots every day,” Stevens said. “He’s probably made 40 percent of his threes in practice. He just knows how to play, on both ends. We saw a bunch of possessions [Wednesday] where he was the one who held the fort together as other people were scrambling.”

Johnson has confidence in his perimeter shooting ability.

“I always could shoot but I always played within the principles of our offense [in Toronto],” Johnson said. “I’ve been working on it every summer. I’m just starting to knock them down now. It’s just [a matter] of playing within Coach Stevens’s offense. It just provides open shots.”

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Meanwhile, Evan Turner made his preseason debut and finished with 10 points, 5 rebounds, and 7 assists in 25 minutes. Johnson needed a couple of practices to get his wind back, while Turner hasn’t played in an organized game since the NBA Africa charity game in August.

As for Turner, Stevens has little concern with integrating him into the lineup because of his versatility.

“We know that he can play [point guard] if need be,” Stevens said. “We know he can defend [point guards up to small forwards]. We know what he brings to the tables. And like Amir, these games are important for him.”

Spike in intensity

Celtics-Nets is not an intense rivalry but it may increase in intensity after Jarrett Jack’s Flagrant-2 foul on Jonas Jerebko with 9:56 left in the second period.

On the previous play, Jack executed a pick-and-roll switch to create a mismatch with Jared Sullinger, only Sullinger reached out and stripped the ball.

After diving for the loose ball, Sullinger fed a streaking Jerebko, who then was knocked completely off his path by a Jack shoulder to his chest. After an official review, Jack was ejected.

“My back is a little sore, but I’m good,” Jerebko said. “You’ve seen it more times than I’ve seen it. I don’t know, frustration from him. I have no idea. I’m just trying to play basketball.”

When asked if Jack apologized, Jerebko said: “No, but I know him. It’s just a frustration play. There’s no hard feelings. It happens.”

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Jack agreed with Jerebko.

“It was the heat of the moment, a little bit of frustration actually,” he said. “And my intention wasn’t to do that at all but I thought the ref made the proper call about what happened.”

Smart has strep

Second-year guard Marcus Smart did not make the trip to New York for the two-game set with the Nets and Knicks because of strep throat.

Stevens said he was hopeful that rookie guard Terry Rozier (sore left knee) would return for practice this weekend.

Mickey impresses

The Celtics were so impressed with Jordan Mickey during his summer league performance that they signed him to a four-year contract, unprecedented for a second-round pick. Mickey isn’t expected to get major minutes because of the glut of frontcourt players but he is making an impression in camp. “He probably had the best day of practice [Tuesday] of anybody,” Stevens said. “He was dominant. And it’s really fun to see days like that and now it’s about doing it every day. It’s fun to watch [the rookies’] progress.” Mickey scored 6 points in 12 minutes . . . David Lee and Avery Bradley had the night off. With more playing time, r ookie R.J. Hunter scored 11 points in 30 minutes, and Jerebko scored 5 in 17 minutes. Sullinger experienced an especially difficult night, missing seven of eight shots with four fouls in 13 minutes. Sullinger appears to be behind Kelly Olynyk and Johnson in the rotation.


Gary Washburn can be reached at gary.washburn@globe.com. Follow him on Twitter @gwashburnglobe

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