There’s very few times beating a 14-31 team can be deemed impressive, but for a Celtics team that was on a three-game losing streak on the road, 2-5 on the second game of a back-to-back, and down Gordon Hayward and a little later Marcus Smart, last night’s win was a triumph of adversity that the team rarely has shown this season.
With the Celtics starting the game slow and at one point being down sixteen, Irving re-entered after his first quarter stint with his team down 38-52 with 6:30 left in the half. From there, Irving scored or assisted on 20 of the Celtics 32 second quarter points which included 15 points of his own, cutting a 14-point deficit to seven by halftime.
There has been plenty of times this season when the Celtics offense has had serious lulls where players lose sight of the free-flowing offense when shots don’t fall. The Celtics seemed to be falling victim to this as the Hawks were gaining more and more confidence in their ability to steal a game against a contender. Irving had other plans. The superstar guard was 5-5 from the field including 3-3 from three.
Irving utilized the Hawks drop coverage to aggressively hunt down his shot from the perimeter. As he’s shown throughout the year, he’s not afraid to launch from 30 feet if that’s what the situation calls for.
We are used to believing that games are won or loss in the 4th quarter but stretches throughout all the other parts of the game are just as important in your chances of winning a game. Irving’s 2nd quarter performance didn’t ensure the Celtics would win, but in a half where the team could have been down 20+, he ensured that they at least had a chance to win.
Terry Rozier has drawn the ire of Celtics fans with his questionable shot selection, inconsistent effort, and overall lack of production in a reserve role. It has all been justifiable and I won’t tell you any different. With that being said, Rozier has flipped the switch since the Florida trip and has gotten back to his defensive roots that made him such an enticing prospect from his Louisville days.
In the past three games, the team has had a 93.7 defensive rating when Rozier is on the court and his 17.5 net rating is third on the team. Through most of the year, Rozier has played as if the only way for him to add value on the team is shot attempts and it has lead to him being a noticeable black eye to the teams egalitarian offense.
But for the time being, those priorities have seemed to shift. Rozier has been picking up opponents full court, flying around on the defensive end, and not playing outside the offense which has helped him still be an overall net positive despite shooting poor during this stretch (49.1 TS%).
Stevens has noticed the uptick, “Terry’s playing at a high level and he can go 4 for 12 and impact us in a real positive way. Then on the nights he’s 9 for 12, he’s going to feel great and he’ll impact us in a positive way, but I’m excited about the way he’s played in the last two.”
Rozier’s acceptance of a defensive bulldog role is a welcomed sight for a team that desperately needed something more out of its reserves in order to continue taking its game to a new levels.