Few in the Celtics lineup have struggled as much to adapt to new circumstances and a new role, but Terry Rozier has seemingly nailed his part down during the Celtics’ current three-game winning streak.
His offense is on the upswing, but as evidenced by Rozier’s first double figures (11) rebound performance of the season, which he paired with three steals during the Celtics’ 113-105 win in Atlanta Saturday night, his energy is also building.
Rozier’s last three performances have been marked by a bent for hitting the opposition with full-court pressure as well as an ability to alter the pace of games.
“Energy, just try to bring energy off the bench, control what I can control, show smiles and have a lot of fun. Make my guy work,” said Rozier, who can see the most important result – the spread of his aggression through the lineup.
“Definitely. I’ve got that trust from my coaches and definitely my teammates, and I’m picking up the energy, picking up guys full,” he said. “I can see from their reaction that I’m bringing my guys up.”
Rozier, who admittedly has faced one of the greatest challenges of his career this season, returning to a backup role behind Kyrie Irving after thriving in the spotlight as a starter during last season’s playoffs, may have finally found an answer.
“Kind of like sacrificing for my team,” he said. “Just going out and having that energy, man. Good to have it because games like this you need something to bring us all together.”
The answer appears to be in the details of Rozier’s effort.
“He’s just doing the little things,” said Irving. “Picking up the starting point guards, opposing backup point guards and really trying to make a difference on the defensive end and pushing in transition. Whether we have something or not he’s creating opportunities for other people and himself and just playing the right way. I’m happy for him because that type of energy we need going from game to game.”
Said Brad Stevens: “Terry’s playing at a really high level. He can go 4-for-12 and impact us in a really positive way. And on the nights he’s 9-for-12, he’s going to feel great and impact us in a positive way. Excited about the way he’s played the last two.”
Marcus Smart awaits word on whether he will be further disciplined by the league following his two-technical ejection Saturday night. The Celtics guard charged at the Hawks’ DeAndre Bembry after officials attempted to separate them in the third quarter.
But there was little doubting the effect that Smart’s outburst eventually had on his teammates.
“I thought we played really hard after that,” said Stevens. “I’ve seen him do that before. When he went out our guys picked up.”
The Baynes effect
It’s not coincidental that the Celtics are 3-0 since Aron Baynes’ return to the lineup.
“Amazing,” said Rozier. “It’s big from setting good screens, his tip-ins, his communication, him being a leader, he plays like a veteran. Good to have him back.”
Smart’s ejection led to a truly unique, first-time, three-guard combination Saturday night, with Irving, Rozier and Brad Wanamaker all on the floor at once.
“I would guess (it was a first),” said Stevens. “We looked like we needed fresh legs. Sometimes on a back-to-back you need that little jolt.”
Rozier was admittedly surprised by the combination.
“Never seen that one before, but you have to make it work,” he said. “Three guys who want to get after opponents, so it was good.”