After a delay before the start of the fourth quarter due to an unknown substance being released on the court, the Celtics denied Johnson his first win as an NBA coach with an 83-72 victory over the last-place Clippers.
En route to their eighth straight loss and third straight since Johnson took over for Alvin Gentry on Monday, the Clippers were delivering an awful shooting performance.
They shot just 25 percent (11-of-44) from the field in the first half but trailed just 31-30. They shot a respectable 45 percent (17-of-38) in the second half and finished at 34 percent (28-of-82) overall.
But before the game could resume, there was a delay of nine minutes. It started when several players and coaches on the Boston bench started to experience difficulties breathing and began coughing.
“There was something around our bench,” Celtics coach Jim O’Brien said. “And you know, a couple of us started to cough. Tony Delk got up and left the thing and it just, whatever it was, it was irritating our throats.”
“It felt like a burning in my throat and you felt nauseated and like you wanted to throw up,” Boston forward Walter McCarty added. “It wasn’t nice. I guess guys kind of figured it was pepper spray or something like that.”
There was no odor, and police and security were unable to find anything in the seats behind the bench.
“To the best of my knowledge, the people who were sitting in the area of section 22, in the area of Row B at about 9:53 p.m. between the third and fourth periods complained of something irritating their throats and their eyes,” NBA security representative Paul F. Johnson said. “All of the witnesses complained of something of that type. It dissipated very quickly. Nobody had any lasting effects, but they had some momentary effects in their throats and their eyes.”
Johnson went on to say that security believes it was just a prank and an investigation is ongoing.
“There were four unidentified males, who were sitting in that particular area, who proceeded to leave rather abruptly just before the complaints started,” he said. “And there’s an ongoing investigation by the police.
“The greatest concern is what is the element that has been released on the public? Is it dangerous? Is it some kind of terrorist attack? Obviously that’s what on everybody’s mind.”
Dennis Johnson, a member of two NBA championship teams in Boston, received a standing ovation before the game, then watched Celtics rookie guard J.R. Bremer have the best game of his career.
“I didn’t pay attention,” said Johnson about the ovation. “I was trying to get a win. Once the game was going, the thought wasn’t even there. The focus shouldn’t have really been on me. I probably did more harm by having it on me.”
Bremer finished with a career-high 25 points. He scored 10 during the a key third-quarter spurt, which turned a 35-34 lead with 9:10 remaining into a 54-43 advantage with 2:22 to play.
Andre Miller’s short jumper put the Clippers within one before Bremer and Antoine Walker went to work. Walker had seven of his 22 points during the spurt and began it with a pair of layups around a 3-pointer.
But when the Clippers elected to double-team Walker, it was Bremer’s turn. Bremer, whose previous career-high had been 22 in Memphis on Monday, made two of his six 3-pointers during the burst and added another 3-pointer with 31.5 seconds remaining.
“They kept double-teaming Antoine, so I was able to knock down shots,” Bremer said. “The shots just wasn’t going down in the first half, but Antoine told me to keep shooting, so I kept going.”
“He’s playing well, but every game is a learning experience for him,” Walker added. If they are going to double off me and Paul (Pierce), he’s got to step up and make the shot. He’s got to constantly take that shot and that’s what he did. He got into a rhythm and started to make some and increase the lead. He’s getting better and better.”
Bremer finished 9-of-16 from the floor, including 6-of-12 from the arc. Walker was 8-of-22 as the Celtics shot 43 percent (31-of-72) and moved a season-high 10 games over .500.