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It turns out Amir Johnson has a pretty nice shot

Amir Johnson (left) and former Celtic Rajon Rondo chase down a loose ball.JIM DAVIS/GLOBE STAFF/Globe Staff

This game officially became bizarre when Jimmy Butler chased Amir Johnson off the 3-point line, followed by the Celtics center driving to the basket and attempting a floater off one foot.

It was that kind of night at TD Garden. In a physical game marred by a significant ankle injury to Jae Crowder, the Celtics and Bulls battled like two teams eager to challenge the Cleveland Cavaliers in the Eastern Conference.

Whereas last week in Chicago Dwyane Wade canned four 3-pointers after hitting seven the previous season, it was Johnson’s turn to set ablaze the scouting report.

Johnson, who hit four 3-pointers in his first seven NBA seasons and 10 all of last season, hit four in a span of 5 minutes, 51 seconds of the third quarter Wednesday night as the Celtics took a 16-point lead, before hanging on for a 107-100 win in front of a sold-out Garden.

Johnson finished with 23 points, his high as a Celtic, and those career-best four 3-pointers. The Celtics needed every bit of his Stephen Curry impression as the Bulls tied the game with 1:57 left, and Johnson followed with the go-ahead free throw as the Celtics ended on a 7-0 run.


“I was just feeling good. I made the first one and my confidence built a little higher,” Johnson said. “And I was able to knock down the fourth one and I don’t even think I saw the basket. They were just giving me so much time to focus on shooting the threes. I work on them every day.”

It was a motivational and emotional win for the Celtics, who were shocked when Crowder left in the second quarter with a badly sprained left ankle. Celtics coach Brad Stevens said the small forward will miss “at least a week.” Meanwhile, Al Horford already was out after being placed in the NBA’s concussion protocol following a blow to the head at Monday’s practice.


The Celtics will be without two starters as they face the defending champion Cavaliers on Thursday night in Cleveland. And it appeared their lack of depth would haunt them down the stretch when they had no defensive answer for Butler, who scored 11 of his 23 points in the fourth period to help the Bulls rally.

Chicago was at full strength with Butler, Wade, and Rajon Rondo, their new Big Three formed to compete with the Cavaliers. Meanwhile, the Celtics were playing with a patchwork lineup that included Marcus Smart, making his season debut after missing the first three games because of a sprained right ankle. There was little time to work Smart into the rotation. He played 33 minutes, finishing with 7 points, 5 rebounds, 5 assists, and a steal.

When the Bulls quickly turned a 16-point deficit into a tie, Johnson followed with his go-ahead free throw, and Isaiah Thomas and Smart then scored game-sealing baskets. Smart’s shot was a leaning hook shot off the glass, just his second basket in eight attempts.

“To be honest, my lungs were on fire, but it felt good,” Smart said. “I actually work on those [hook shots], work on getting it high up off the glass. I just figured if I could get to the spot and put it up there, it’d be a good shot to go in.”

Thomas finished with 23 points and 10 assists. Tyler Zeller, starting in place of Horford, added 11 points.


The Celtics were still dominated on the boards (49-39), as they were by the Bulls last Thursday, but they held the Bulls scoreless for the final 1:57, including rushed 3-pointers by Butler and Wade in the waning moments.

It appears Crowder may miss extended time after he leaped to release a pass and rolled his left ankle as he landed on Rondo’s foot.

Crowder crumbled to the floor, writhing in pain, before he hopped to the locker room on his right foot, putting no pressure on the left. Crowder missed eight games last March with a high right ankle sprain and admitted he never returned to full health until deep into the offseason.

Crowder was not in the locker room when reporters were allowed in, but the Celtics are preparing to play several games without their spiritual leader.

“It’s a great opportunity for everybody else,” Stevens said. “We’re early in the season, so everybody gets a chance to step up and make plays and compete. And we’ll see. We’ll try to figure it out.”

It appears highly unlikely Crowder will make the trip to Cleveland, putting the onus on rookie Jaylen Brown, who tried to give the club quality minutes but picked up four fouls in nine first-half minutes and did not play in the second half.

Stevens was forced to use James Young, who claimed the last roster spot on the team, late in the first half because of a lack of depth at small forward. Smart started the second half in place of Crowder and the combination of Jonas Jerebko and Gerald Green also logged key minutes in the second half.


Gary Washburn can be reached at