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Joe Johnson back in NBA at 40 to help Covid-hit Celtics win

Boston Celtics guard Jaylen Brown (7) shoots against Cleveland Cavaliers' Denzel Valentine (45). -- USA Today Sports
Boston Celtics guard Jaylen Brown (7) shoots against Cleveland Cavaliers' Denzel Valentine (45). -- USA Today Sports

Washington: Jaylen Brown and Jayson Tatum sparked the Boston Celtics over Cleveland on Wednesday, but it was the return of their new 40-year-old teammate Joe Johnson that stole the show.

Brown scored 34 points to lead the Celtics past the visiting Cavaliers 111-101 while Tatum added 18 and Robert Williams III had 21 points and 11 rebounds.

With the Celtics having seven players in Covid-19 protocols, they turned to 17-year NBA veteran Johnson -- who hadn't played in the league since 2018 -- and 15-year NBA guard C.J. Miles to fill out the roster and provide some wisdom to Boston's current superstars.

"Adding some older voices can't hurt," Brown said. "It can only help."

Johnson, who was drafted 10th overall by the Celtics in the 2001 NBA Draft, managed only two points in two minutes on the court but received huge applause for his comeback efforts.

"It's great to be back here 20 years later. It has been amazing to me. Still surreal but a lot of fun," Johnson said.

"I really appreciate these Celtics fans. It was exciting to get that kind of reaction. It's special."

Johnson was a seven-time All-Star who averaged 16.0 points in 1,276 prior games with Boston, Atlanta, Phoenix, Brooklyn, Miami, Utah and Houston.

He sees his role as advising Brown and Tatum as much as filling out the roster.

"Staying in their ear, making sure they know what they have to do for us to be victorious night in and night out," Johnson said.

Jrue Holiday scored 24 points and passed off 10 assists while Khris Middleton added 23 points as the reigning NBA champion Milwaukee Bucks defeated visiting Houston 126-106.

The Bucks improved to 20-13, third in the Eastern Conference, despite the lack of Greek superstar Giannis Antetokounmpo, who is in the NBA's Covid-19 health and safety protocols.

Christian Wood had 20 points and 11 rebounds to lead the Rockets.

German forward Franz Wagner scored 25 points and Gary Harris added 17 to spark the Orlando Magic over Atlanta 104-98, lifting the NBA's second-worst club to 7-25 with a fifth road victory.

Orlando's Robin Lopez scored 10 points and passed out a career-high 11 assists.

The Hawks, led by 36 points from Cam Reddish, fell to 11th in the Eastern Conference at 14-16. John Collins added 28 points and 12 rebounds for Atlanta.

Triple double for Shai

Shai Gilgeous-Alexander delivered the second triple double of his NBA career with 27 points, 11 rebounds and 12 assists to ignite the Oklahoma City Thunder over visiting Denver 108-94.

Darius Bazley came off the bench to score 17 points and grab 11 rebounds for the Thunder, who had six double-figure scorers, while Nikola Jokic led the Nuggets with 13 points.

Eric Bledsoe scored 19 points while Paul George and Spanish big man Serge Ibaka each added 17 as the Los Angeles Clippers collected a 105-89 victory at Sacramento.

Tyrese Haliburton led the host Kings with 22 points and 13 assists.

Toronto's contest at Chicago was postponed because the visiting Raptors could not field the minimum eight players needed to compete due to Covid-19 health and safety protocols. -- AFP

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