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Boston’s backups step up and 9 other takeaways from Celtics/Cavaliers

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It was a big night for the Celtics backups, who shined in the rout of the Cavs

NBA: Cleveland Cavaliers at Boston Celtics Greg M. Cooper-USA TODAY Sports

1. What do you know? Terry Rozier started and played well. It’s almost like that is a thing! All jokes aside, Rozier was great. When Boston struggled early on defense (more on that next!), Rozier kept them in the game. He scored 16 of his game-high 26 points in the first quarter, and didn’t miss a shot in the first half. All-in-all, it was a terrific night for Rozier, who continues to show great value when he’s given a little longer of a leash.

2. It wasn’t the best start for the Celtics defense, as they allowed the Cavaliers to hit 13-of-23 shots in the first quarter on their way to 30 points. Most of the problems came in the paint and at the rim. Without Al Horford to set the defense, Boston struggled with switches and to control ballhandlers. This led to a lot of easy looks inside for Cleveland.

3. It was another strong effort from the reserves. After some struggles last time out against the Heat, the bench bounced back with a good night vs the Cavs. In total, the Boston backups scored 60 points compared to just 30 for the Cleveland reserves. And this is without Rozier’s 26 counted, as he started the game.

4. Jaylen Brown was a big part of those bench efforts, as he scored 23 points. Usually Brown gets his points on a combination of open jumpers, short fall-aways in the paint and by slashing to the hoop. This play shows the growth of his post-up game, as he powers through the smaller defender for the easy layup:

5. Brad Wanamaker again gave Brad Stevens good minutes when his number was called. He scored 11 points, aided by hitting 3-of-4 from downtown. He was also a game-best +22 in just 20 minutes of playing time. Wanamaker has given Stevens faith that he’s got enough at point guard to get by if one of the key guys is out.

6. Marcus Morris has had a tremendous season shooting the ball. He’s at 42.5 percent on the season, which easily tops his previous best season of 38.1 percent. Morris has shot it so well that Stevens began championing Morris for the Three-point Shootout at All-Star Weekend. Because of this, it wouldn’t be a surprise to see him pull it whenever he has the slightest bit of daylight. But Morris has remained a good teammate and unselfish player, even despite hitting shots left and right. On this play, he passes up a good look to get Marcus Smart a great one:

7. The above clip was some unselfish play, but the best play of the night was this beauty, where the ball popped all over the court, ending in Rozier burying a corner-three:

8. Not only did Rozier fill in for Kyrie Irving as the starting point guard, but he also took his place as the resident deep-bomb highlight maker as well, as he ended the half 8-of-8 from the field for 22 points:

9. We all love Jayson Tatum’s offensive game. But he’s so good on that end, that it sometimes overshadows what a good and smart defender he is. On this play, he knows what Ante Zizic is going to do before Zizic does. And he knows he can leave his man, because there is no way Zizic can make that pass. The result? Pick-six heading the other way:

10. It was great to see Boston take care of business without both their outspoken and unspoken leaders, as Irving and Horford had the night off. It was bumpy at first, but the baby Celtics eventually turned it into a rout. This was the kind of game we all envisioned when we talked about Boston’s tremendous depth. A guy misses the game? No big deal, next man up is probably almost as good.

And now that all gets put to the test on Saturday night, as the Celtics welcome the Golden State Warriors to Boston. It’s a measuring stick game to see just how far the Celtics have turned the corner. And on ABC in the Saturday night showcase spot, all eyes will be on Boston.