The Pacers were blown out by the Celtics on Friday night in Boston by a final score of 94-75, but it was a memorable night for rookie Orlando Johnson nonetheless.
Johnson, who has spent some time with the Fort Wayne Mad Ants of the D-League, played the entire fourth quarter in the 94-75 loss – his most extensive playing time in the NBA.
Prior to Friday night, he had played a grand total of five minutes (two appearances) for the Pacers.
“When I got into the game I wanted to come out and play hard,” Johnson said afterward. “I feel like we were lacking that through the first three quarters, I just wanted to bring effort to the floor. Be competitive as well, knowing the guys on the other side weren’t going to give up. I know I can play, so I knew if I gave full effort that things would fall into place.”
Fall into place they did. Johnson scored his first NBA points on a little jumper from the baseline and later connected on his first three-pointer. He added a pair of free throws as well, finishing with seven points (on just three shots), two rebounds and a block.
“Coach just told me to do what got me to this point. I’ll keep working on my craft and develop the habits that I need to get better and help this team as a solid contributor,” he said.
Johnson was selected by the Kings with the 36th overall pick in the 2012 draft, but was immediately shipped to the Pacers. Injuries to Danny Granger (knee), George Hill (groin) and Sam Young (ankle) forced the rookie into duty.
He has had two very good games for the Mad Ants, averaging 22.5 points, 7.5 rebounds and 3.0 steals in two November contests. He exploded for 30 points, on 10-for-20 shooting, against Maine on Nov. 25. Johnson certainly hasn’t had difficulty scoring at the professional level.
Friday night’s accomplishments carried some extra weight for Johnson, who grew up rooting for the Celtics despite living in California.
“You look forward to moments like this, when you get to play at a place like the TD Garden,” he told me. “I grew up a fan of the Celtics, so to get a chance to play against them and get my first NBA points against them is special. I just want to keep it rolling.”