Joe Johnson: Big Contract, Boston Celtics No Problem

by Chris Bahn  on Tuesday, Apr. 29, 2008 9:44 am  

This story is from the archives of

Remember a few years back when Atlanta Hawks ownership split over whether Joe Johnson was worth paying the maximum NBA contract?

They probably don't remember it either. Or at least they don't want to.

Johnson, the former Little Rock Central and University of Arkansas standout, is proving himself worthy of the star status that comes with such a contract. Johnson scored 35 on Monday against the Boston Celtics, helping even the seven-game series at 2-2. contributor Mike Kahn writes that Johnson's performance helped quiet the notion the Hawks had overpaid.

Monday night, he silenced all the detractors. The powerfully built 6-foot-7 guard, with Josh Smith's help, led the Hawks back from a 10-point deficit entering the fourth quarter as they stunned the Celtics 97-92 to shockingly even the series at 2-2 with the No. 1 seed.

Johnson scored 20 of his game-high 35 points in the fourth quarter, running overmatched Celtics veteran Ray Allen into the ground with a brilliant array of drives and perimeter shots that raised the question for Doc Rivers: Why not put the bigger and better-defending James Posey on Johnson?
Johnson told reporters after the game he was simply trying to live up to his billing. Even Boston Globe writers were impressed by Johnson putting the team on his back and improving his reputation as a top-level player.

"I was just trying to be aggressive," Johnson said. "I know starting the fourth we're down 10, somebody's got to step up and do something.

"If I'm supposed to be the guy, the All-Star on this team, then I've got to step up, and that's what I did."
Johnson's teammates appreciated the effort.

Veteran guard Mike Bibby told the Atlanta Journal Constitution that Johnson's performance should rank among the best ever. Johnson helped Atlanta overcome a 10-point deficit in the fouth quarter.

"It was like that the whole way. Joe carried us on his back," said Bibby, who scored all 18 of his points in the first half. "That has to go up there with the top performances in playoff history. That [expletive] was going crazy, man. He was going crazy."


Imagine how crazy it would be if Johnson and the Hawks pulled off the series victory? Would anybody question his worth then?



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