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Aaron Nesmith capitalizing on opportunity

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The rookie had his best game of the season against the Nuggets.

Denver Nuggets v Boston Celtics Photo by Brian Babineau/NBAE via Getty Images

To start the fourth quarter, Brad Stevens rolled out a lineup of youngsters with Jayson Tatum flanked by Robert Williams, Javonte Green, and two rookies, Payton Pritchard and Aaron Nesmith. The Celtics were up 11 and were trying to hold down the fort until Nuggets superstar Nikola Jokic eventually re-entered the game.

Denver scored four quick points on back-to-back Isaiah Hartenstein layups to cut the lead to 7. Tatum responded with a driving layup. They were three buckets that everybody will forget by tomorrow.

On the ensuing possession, Jamal Murray had Nesmith in a two-man game with Hartenstein and Williams. Green tagged Hartenstein on the roll and tipped the ball to midcourt. And just like he was playing the entire game, Nesmith made this hustle play:

No points were put on the board, but they were certainly scored with his teammates and coaching staff.

“I think it was a momentum changer. Plays like that always get the team hyped. The team that turns it over, they kinda put their heads down and walk back on defense,” Nesmith said of his rug burner dive for the ball. “We took advantage of that. I think we scored. Payton had an and-1. That play straight into an and-1 is pretty demoralizing for the opposing team.”

It was a winning play and a Tommy point and for Nesmith who has seen very little playing time this season, it could open the door for more opportunities.

“He’s obviously becoming more comfortable with the speed of the game on the offensive end. That was probably the biggest transition for him. He’s handled that well. Credit to him. He’s just kept working. When a guy gets that opportunity, you really want to see him succeed and that’s two good games in a row.”

In D.C. and again last night against the Nuggets, Nesmith was the first player off the bench. The rookie has seen minutes very sparingly all year, but Stevens has noted all the consistent work that Nesmith has put in and that’s paid off over the last two games.

“It feels good to be able to go out there and play and participate towards winning games and trying to make winning plays,” Nesmith said. “Just trying to make the most of the opportunities that I’m given.”

Coming out of Vanderbilt, Nesmith was considered the best pure shooter in the draft, but to earn minutes under Brad Stevens, you have to be able to defend and impact the game. He hasn’t exactly been a reliable shooter (12-for-37 from behind the arc), but of late, he’s been a spark off the bench. He scored nine points (2-for-4 from 3) off the bench, but it’s plays like this that will keep him in the rotation:

“I’m just trying to do whatever the team needs me to do. In the game, sometimes, we need energy. There’s no crowd. There’s no fans. For some guys, it’s hard to get up and play with a lot of energy,” Nesmith said. “Coming off the bench, for the starters, for the rest of the team, I’m just trying to be an energy boost and an energy guy, a guy that helps other guys play harder, a guys that helps us towards winning.”

Nesmith says that he tries to be the first player at the gym in the morning, getting up as many shots as he can to stay ready. In the games, he’s hitting the floor with reckless abandon and sacrificing everything for the team.

Sounds like a Celtic already.