The offensive forays and streak shooting of the Detroit Pistons' Vinnie Johnson have been the talk of the NBA Eastern Conference semifinals. Wednesday night, Boston's Dennis Johnson got into the act as well.
In the Celtics' 130-123 victory at Boston Garden on Wednesday, Vinnie Johnson (who scored a career-high 34 points in Game 3) continued his apparent mastery of the Celtics, scoring a team-high 30 points. Dennis Johnson connected on 13 of 16 shots from the field and scored 30 points.
The defending champion Celtics have a 3-2 edge heading into Friday night's sixth game in Detroit. And Boston's more comfortable position wouldn't be possible without the contributions of its Johnson, Dennis.
His effort came just hours after sitting out shooting practice because of a sore back. Johnson also received treatment just before game time. "I looked at him just after we came in tonight and he looked bad," said Larry Bird, who scored a personal playoff high 43 points. "I asked him if he was going to play and he just said, 'You bet.' "
"It was never really a big thing," Johnson said. "I wouldn't use it as an excuse if I'd played bad so I won't complain about it because I played good. I knew I would be out there."
Johnson was eager to face the Pistons because it gave him another opportunity to stop Vinnie Johnson, as well as work on some aspects of his offensive game that had lapsed at times during the series.
"I just don't think that I've been aggressive enough in my overall game," he said. "I wanted to come out and establish myself."
That desire dovetailed nicely with the Celtics' team plan of pushing the ball up the court more. Scoring on a variety of layups and short jumpers, Dennis Johnson had 14 first-quarter points and 22 at halftime.
Things weren't working out as well on the other end of the floor, where Vinnie Johnson hit eight of nine shots and scored 16 points in the second period. The Celtics tried five different players on Johnson, who has been so hot from the field that the Celtics have almost resigned themselves to the inevitable.
In his performance, however, Dennis Johnson got a measure of appreciation for what his fellow Johnson has done in the last two games. "When I was really pushing the ball, it seemed like holes were just opening up on the floor, at that point you just keep going for it.
"The shots were falling and I'm just like anyone else, I'll take the chance that they'll keep falling."
Johnson raised his average for the series to 16 points a game, 2.6 points behind Vinnie Johnson's average. Just as the Pistons' supersub has caused problems for the Celtics, Dennis Johnson has rapidly impressed Detroit Coach Chuck Daly.
"That's the first time he's really taken it to us, and when he does that it makes us rethink about what we're trying to do," he said. "Normally you want to help out on their big guys but if Johnson is scoring, then you have to play him more honestly, which then opens things back up again for people like Bird and (Robert) Parish. We're going to have to make some sort of adjustment."