The Dallas Mavericks were without two starters as they faced the Boston on the second night of a back-to-back on Feb. 23. Kristaps Porzingis missed his second straight game with a back injury, and Maxi Kleber sprained his ankle in Monday’s win over the Grizzlies.
Coach Rick Carlisle gave James Johnson and Dwight Powell spot starts against the Celtics on Tuesday. Powell struggled, which opened the door for Boban Marjanovic to shine.
Johnson was impressive. He had not played a single minute since Feb. 4. There was no injury or ailment. Johnson was out of the rotation, but he stepped up a gave the Mavericks 28 solid minutes on Feb. 23 against the Celtics. The veteran forward even earned the Defensive Player of the Game belt. Let us take a closer look at his performance.
James Johnson wins Defensive Player of the Game belt as Mavericks top Celtics
Fans will remember Luka Doncic’s game-winner, but they will quickly forget that it was Johnson who set the tone for the Mavs in the first quarter. He came out aggressive with six quick points to keep things close.
His final stat line won’t blow fans away. He finished with eight points, three rebounds, three assists, and two steals in 28 minutes. Impressive considering that he had not played in almost 20 days.
The Mavericks needed his size and physicality to match up against the Celtics. Boston started big with two traditional centers in Tristian Thompson and Daniel Theis, but have Jayson Tatum and Jaylen Brown hunting switches. Johnson has the size and athletic ability to defend any of the four. The Mavericks outscored the Celtics by four points in his 28 minutes, which helped Johnson take home the Defensive Player of the Game belt on Tuesday night.
The Dallas Mavericks head out on the road for a difficult three-game east coast trip that begins Thursday in Philadelphia. It will be interesting to see if James Johnson sticks in the rotation after his strong game. The Mavs have won six of their seven and are showing the promise fans expected to see this season. Stay tuned as they look to close out the first half of the season strong.