Amir Johnson the centre of Raptors' offence yet again early in Game 7
Sunday, May 04, 2014 05:30 pm
TORONTO - The Toronto Raptors went as Amir Johnson did throughout the playoffs. When Johnson played well, so did Toronto.
Johnson pieced together his best game of the series Sunday, but was glued to the bench helpless during the final 7:53 after fouling out in the Raptors' 104-103 loss to the Brooklyn Nets in Game 7.
Playing just 22 minutes, Johnson scored 20 points and grabbed 10 rebounds, both career playoff-highs, while shooting 9 for 12 from the floor. Despite the early exit, Raptors head coach Dwane Casey couldn't have asked for more from his big man.
"He was my biggest question mark going into today," Casey said. "Today he put us in a position to win until he got into foul trouble. He was huge. His contribution to this team is unbelievable. He kind of set the tone for the game and kind of kept us going until he got into foul trouble."
Casey thought he might be without Johnson early on in the game when he went down in a heap clutching his ankle. When he slowly got up, he had a noticeable limp.
"I don't know what happened on that play," Johnson said. "I think I stepped on Alan Anderson's foot or something then tweaked my ankle."
Watching Johnson hobble around the court, Casey was ready to pull him and had Patrick Patterson at the scorer's table to replace him. But before he had a chance to make the substitution Johnson scored on three possessions in a row. Casey sent Patterson back to the bench.
The Raptors continued to go to Johnson and he finished with 12 points in the quarter as the team led by two after the opening 12 minutes of play.
"I just had to keep going," Johnson said. "The game was too important to sit down or get subbed out so I kept playing."
He kept playing until fouls forced Casey to take him out of the game. Johnson fouled out after a call on a possession where Johnson and Brooklyn's Deron Williams appeared to get tripped up and fell to the floor.
"We missed him in there," Casey said. "We needed that big body. We had to go small at the end and try to scramble around to get back in the game. He is kind of the hub of what we do."
As the Raptors walked off the Air Canada Centre court for the final time this season, the crowd was on its feet, cheering. Johnson singled out the support from all over the country as a motivator.
"Our fans have been big," Johnson said. "This makes you want to work that much harder, (to) do it for them. It's definitely an inspiration to see every fan come out, from every province, all over Canada just to be behind us."
Johnson is known as much for embracing the city as his play during his five seasons in Toronto. Despite the sting of the loss, he wanted fans to know they were heard loud and clear.
"It was big time," Johnson said. "It was big time. Them showing their appreciation for how well we did this season and how hard we worked. It was a sad moment, but bittersweet, I guess."