Kyrie Irving will rightly steal all the headlines this morning. He was unbelievably in last night’s win against the Raptors, both as a clutch scorer (10 points in the 4th quarter) and as a distributor (18 assists). The vets Gordon Hayward and Al Horford looked like All Stars next to him, but it was the contributions of two somewhat forgotten “role players” that helped set the tone for arguably Boston’s biggest win of the season.
During last week’s drama-filled three-game losing streak on the road, Terry Rozier remained mostly invisible. His play on the court was uninspired where he hit only 4-of-25 and was a -40 in Miami, Orlando, and Brooklyn. Last night, he had a ho hum stat line of 5 points, 4 rebounds, and one assist, but it was his energy on the floor that fueled Boston’s first comeback in the second quarter.
In his post game presser, Brad Stevens gave him credit for the team’s turnaround, saying, “I thought Terry Rozier turned the game around. I thought he turned the environment around to be honest. I thought that his energy lifted everyone around from our team to the building. I just thought it was contagious.”
“The way he picked up the ball, a couple of the plays he made, the spirit he played with, I thought really got us going in the right direction and everybody followed suit from there on out.”
Rozier tore a page out of former teammate Avery Bradley’s book to provide a spark off the bench by picking up opposing point guards full court. Hayward noticed, too. “It started with Terry and his energy, picking up the ball, making it tough on their point guard and that kinda got us all going, got us playing harder, playing up the court. That was a huge huge momentum changer,” Hayward said.
In two roughly ten-minute stints, Rozier also pushed the ball in transition and attacked the basket when he could. He didn’t force anything on offense and instead, used his athleticism on the defensive end. After the game, Rozier seemed to brush off the accolades, saying that it was “nothing special” and “something he just told himself, so get used to seeing that.”
“I definitely felt the spirit go up a little bit. I’m just trying to be active on the ball, picking up full, and picking up everybody’s energy. You could just tell that when I started doing it that everybody started being more active and it changed the game a little bit.”
In the front court, it was the return of Aron Baynes that provided the solid backbone on both sides of the floor. His presence was probably felt the most by the guy that he never shared the floor with: Al Horford.
“I’m very happy that (Aron Baynes) is back. He felt great. He takes so much pressure off of us as a group. His presence defensively, his activity, energy, he hit a big three in the fourth when we were hurting. I’m just happy that he’s back,” Horford said.
We sure missed big man Aron Baynes. But he returned Wednesday and canned a big 3-pointer that helped to turn the game around for us. pic.twitter.com/vLGhSgE8ke— Boston Celtics (@celtics) January 17, 2019
Baynes hit only one shot in the game, but it was one of the biggest. Stevens said, “I thought he really battled down there. The three he hit was huge. I thought it was big for momentum, because it was going the other way at that time. He just stepped up and knocked it in.”
But like Rozier, it’s all the little things that can go unnoticed that makes Baynes such an important part of this team. “The little things that he does, the rebounds, the box outs, hitting guys when they’re cutting through the lane, and then the big three, too. That was huge. He’s a voice out there, a defensive anchor, and we missed him,” said Hayward.
During his 13-game absence and nagging the training staff to clear him, Baynes learned a valuable lesson while on the bench that helped Hayward return to the floor a different, more cerebral player. “One of the benefits of being out was I got to see what I could contribute,” Baynes said. “Trying to get down the floor, be vocal on defense to begin with, and on offense, just trying to get these guys moving a little bit, set some good screens—these guys can create a lot when you set some good screens and give them half a step—that’s what I’m trying to do.”
With the team again struggling to find their roles and carve out a niche, two Celtics were able to do the little things and Boston won their biggest game of the year.