Amir Johnson is starting to play his best basketball as a Celtic during a crucial stretch

Amir Johnson is improving at a time when he may be needed the most. At first glance, one could point out that his 2015-16 has been a disappointment so far. He is down to 7.3 ppg from 9.3 last year, and the career 67.6% free throw shooter is only at 56.3% during his first season in green. But as most cases, everything is not always as it seems.

While the Celtics as a team have been going through a recent spell of minor injuries (Crowder, Jerebko, Olynyk), Johnson has been battling plantar fasciitis for most of season, but you'll never hear him complain. In fact, he has only missed 3 out of 71 games.

If there's any indication that he's feeling better, the last two contests were just that. Sunday against Philadelphia, he scored 18 points on 9-10 shooting, 8 rebs and 2 blocks in just 23 minutes, just about at his season average of 22.5 minutes per game. Last night against Orlando, he followed that up with a double-double, 11 points and 11 rebs to go along with 3 blocks on 5-6 shooting. He played way above his average minutes too.

His recent hot stretch couldn't come at a more crucial time for the Celtics either, who are currently in a cage match with Triple HHH, or as some call them the Hawks, Hornets, and Heat (note to self: copyright immediately). The four teams are only separated by percentage points in the standings for 3rd through 6th in the East.

Johnson spoke about his recent play following the win against Philadelphia. Via Mark Murphy of the Boston Herald:

“It comes to the point of the season where you have to pick up your step,” Johnson said. “Looking at where we are in the East with a few games left, guys are definitely starting to ramp it up, especially myself.

“But my foot is definitely starting to feel better in that case. You have to be able to take care of your body, and the staff has been doing that. Just have to prepare yourself for it. (It started to feel better) a few weeks ago. It’s still sore, it just feels good enough for me to get ready. It had affected my running throughout the game. It would get painful. But it’s starting not to be so painful.”

The 11th year power forward's recent play has caught the attention of his teammates too.

Let's hope Johnson can continue on his improvements into tomorrow night against his former team, Toronto, and the Boston's following five game west coast trip.

Photo Credit: Charles Krupa/Associated Press

Follow Nolan on Twitter @NolanChuck