In the first two games of the Boston Celtics first round series against the Milwaukee Bucks, Terry Rozier stepped up and played better than most figured he was capable of. He struggled shooting the ball early in Game 1, but came on late. Rozier finished with 23 points and of course drilled this almost game-winner:
In Game 2, Rozier was even better. He again scored 23 points, but this time hit 8-of-14 shots and dished out eight assists. Over the course of both games, he didn’t turn the ball over as much as even one time. Rozier’s always been a capable scorer. It’s his playmaking that has missed the mark for most of his career. Without Kyrie Irving and Marcus Smart, Boston needs Rozier to score, but they need him to make plays just as much. Here is a good example of how far Rozier has come:
It’s a simple screen and roll action with Aron Baynes. Normally in this situation, Rozier would come off the pick looking to score. Here he reads that John Henson knows this and he delivers an on-time pass to Baynes for the bucket.
This is another example of a good read by Rozier:
He uses the Horford screen to get into the paint, where he attracts the attention of three different defenders: Giannis Antetokounmpo who helped on the screen, Henson who came off a secondary screen from Baynes and, most importantly, Khris Middleton who helps off the strongside elbow. Again, Rozier hits the paint looking to find a shooter. In this case, he kicks to Jaylen Brown for the open three-pointer. He made a quick decision and got the ball where it needed to be.
Game 3 was a different story. Milwaukee made a concerted effort to make things hard on Rozier. Eric Bledsoe, who claimed not to know who Rozier was despite being torched in Games 1 and 2, was far more active defensively. And Matthew Dellavedova helped changed the game very early on by getting into Rozier’s body. You can’t see the beginning of the possession here, but Dellavedova picked him up full court:
By the time the clip starts, Dellavedova is all over Rozier. This is where Rozier’s natural inclination to score kicks in. He can get by Dellavedova using his speed, but he gets to the paint without any real play. Because he goes so quickly, no shooters are spaced around the floor and no one is diving to the rim. Dellavedova pokes the ball free and Rozier commits his second of four first quarter turnovers.
These two clips show Rozier committing the cardinal sin of point guard play:
On both plays he gets into the air without a plan. On the first clip Rozier isn’t patient. He takes just one dribble to attack Tyler Zeller before jumping to pass to Baynes. Rozier leads Baynes a little too far and it results in easy pickings for Antetokounmpo.
On the second play, he catches off a flare screen and immediately decides he’s going to attack the paint. Not a bad decision, as Zeller isn’t a great rim protector. But Rozier gets caught in the air again. This gives him limited options and he tries to force a pass that is somewhere between the rolling Greg Monroe and Al Horford at the arc. Once again, Antetokounmpo snags the steal and he’s off to the races.
In fairness, Rozier did have nine assists in Game 3, but most came when the game was already out of reach. It’s unfair to expect him to replace both Irving’s scoring and playmaking, but that is what Boston has to ask of him. They need him to be patient and balance his scoring and playmaking like he did in Games 1 and 2. With a critical Game 4 on Sunday, the Celtics need him to do it. Otherwise, this series might head back to Boston all tied at two games apiece.