Terry Rozier ran off the Auerbach Center floor this week and declared that Scary Terry is back. He said that he’s needed now, and it’s true, but he will likely need a new nickname.
We’ve seen glimpses of Scary Terry in 14 starts this year. He posted a +11 net rating along with 5.0 more points, 1.6 more rebounds and 2.5 more assists per game than in his bench role. Those starts all came in the absence of Kyrie Irving. With Marcus Smart out, conventional wisdom suggests that Rozier would slide into those minutes, but Irving’s here to play nearly the entirety of every playoff game and there may not be as big an opportunity for Terry to be as scary as he was in last year’s post season.
Rozier received 37 touches in the win over the Pacers. Irving led the team with 76. In cases where Irving sits out, Rozier averaged 71 in 14 games. The ball runs through Rozier on those nights. Now filling minutes vacated by Marcus Smart’s oblique injury, his role looks more like Smart’s than Rozier’s sans Kyrie.
“With Marcus, you can really play Kyrie off the ball and he can be a cutter and those types of things,” Stevens said. “We’ll play Terry and Gordon more with Kyrie than we have, but I think ultimately we’ll have one point guard on the floor.”
Boston ran eight pick-and-roll sets through Gordon Hayward, Jayson Tatum and Rozier. That matched what the Celtics did throughout the regular season. Irving ran point guard alone for 11 minutes with the starters, who posted a +14 net rating.
Irving’s 17 minutes with Hayward yielded a +41 net rating. His eight with Rozier resulted in a -13 mark, including a 93 offensive rating.
Rozier’s activity in Game 1 boiled down to three possessions in transition, where he scored four points. He missed a shot in isolation, and two more in spot-up situations. In line with his regular season, he shot 1-for-6 and split his free throws in 18 minutes.
Rozier finished 37% from the field and 33% from the field this season as a reserve. His defense lapsed in spots. He would hunt shots and jack them up for the sake of shooting as he did in a blowout loss to the Chicago Bulls after the All-Star break. A year of turmoil for the Celtics began with speculation about Rozier’s tweets, and since then he has embodied the streakiness of the roster.
Danny Ainge stuck with his prized pick from the 2015 NBA Draft and Brad Stevens — intent on his philosophy of keeping the whole roster involved — funneled minutes to Rozier. That playing time remains, though Hayward has played as an effective secondary point guard to create off-ball opportunities for Irving. Rozier filled a miscellaneous offensive role, shooting wherever he can with little consistency.
Irving and Rozier, in 441 minutes this year, still posted a +4.2 net rating together, compared to +5.6 for Irving and Smart. They did not light fireworks offensively, but opponents scored under 97 points per 100 possessions against that two-man lineups — second best among Celtics duos that played at least 300 minutes together.
Darren Collison, Tyreke Evans, Cory Joseph and Wesley Matthews combined to shoot 4-for-24 with Rozier as their primary defender. With a 78 defensive rating, he squeaked out a positive net rating. That defense — which wavered in the regular season — could become his key contribution in this series.
Irving misses Smart, which we knew, as he played in all but two of the team’s five-man lineups that were a positive net rating in over 60 minutes together. Rozier’s job is not to become Smart, but to minimize the loss.
“[I’m going to] go out there and play my game,” Rozier said. “I’m not going out there [trying to] imitate nobody else. Like I said, it’s tough trying to make up for a guy like Smart.”
That much is clear in Rozier’s first appearance after the injury. It’s unclear, while still receiving playing time, how he’ll be able to revive his tumultuous contract year in Boston with this clean slate.