Terry Rozier is always moving. You see it when he’s on offense; whether he’s leading the break, driving to the rim, or playing off the ball in the half court. And by now everyone is aware of his penchant for “championship plays” and disruption on defense. When Rozier has been on the court in the playoffs, it feels like he’s never standing still. His energy is even backed up statistically: Rozier ranked 2nd highest in distance traveled per game in the last round, and ranks top 5 overall in the playoffs. Rozier has been relentless on the court and it’s a key reason why he’s playing the best basketball of his career.
In the Celtics’ series win against the 76ers, Rozier led the team in minutes, and averaged 19 points, 7.2 rebounds, and 4.4 assists per game. He stepped his game up when Kyrie Irving went down, and helped keep the offense humming. Rozier uses his quickness to break down the defense off the dribble. This leads to layups for himself and opens up the drive-and-kick game for his teammates.
One impressive facet of his playmaking was that he rarely gave the ball away. Against the Sixers, he led Boston in both touches and passes, yet only averaged 1 turnover per game. This is the kind of thing that keeps an offense in rhythm. On/off numbers aren’t perfect, but Boston’s offense absolutely cratered without Rozier on the floor. There’s definitely some overlap with Horford/Tatum, but the numbers are compelling regardless.
His rebounding stands out as well. It isn’t just a way to pad his numbers either, it actually contributes to the offense. His ability to push the ball in transition after grabbing the rebound is reminiscent of Russell Westbrook (or Rajon Rondo if you want to harken back to the old days of other long-armed Celtics guards). Rozier led the the Celtics in fast break points, thanks in part to his ability to take the ball coast-to-coast.
His three point shooting was pivotal in the series as well. He can create his own shot with a nice mix step-back and pull-up jumpers. But he’s also able to use his movement without the ball to generate great shooting looks. It can be difficult for point guards to get corner three opportunities. But good off-ball movement can change that. Steph Curry is a master of plays where he gives the ball up, then sprints to the corner to get an open look. In the playoffs, Rozier is showing an ability to do that too.
Watch how Rozier keeps running, loses his defender, then knocks down the shot. It’s good situational awareness and it makes him more difficult to guard.
He still has some holes in his game, like his occasionally poor finishing at the rim. But his increased role has allowed the rest of his skills to make up for it. And, when it’s mattered most, he’s been able to convert in the paint.
His hustle doesn’t stop on the defensive end either. He recovered the most loose balls in the series, an impressive feat considering he plays on the same team as Marcus Smart. Rozier is also perceptive defender that can jump passing lanes. Combined with his quickness and length, that makes him a threat to steal the ball at any time. He showed that in the Game 3 win, coming away with 2 clutch steals to keep the Celtics afloat.
But arguably his most important defensive play didn’t even count as a steal. In the clinching game of the series, Rozier had the presence of mind to pressure Joel Embiid and cause the turnover.
This play has been lost in the shuffle of the “Marcus Smart being Marcus Smart” chaos that followed, but it was pivotal.
Rozier is an incredible athlete. But it’s his effort and basketball IQ that makes him such an impactful player for the Celtics. He has exceeded even the wildest expectations of him this postseason. He’s even triggered a delightfully bizarre Drew Bledsoe resurgence. He has a new contract on the horizon and growing interest around the league for his services. But right now LeBron James and the surging Cavaliers are waiting. For the Celtics to have a shot at making the Finals, Terry Rozier can’t stop anytime soon.