BOSTON -- In the first half of Boston’s 119-114 win over New York on Sunday, there was a Christmas Day sighting few expected: Gerald Green on the floor.
And as the game wore on, it was just as noticeable that Terry Rozier did not play (coaches decision) for the first time this season.
As much as Brad Stevens is praised for his play-calling, the fourth-year coach deserves some praise for having a strong pulse on what his team needs in what has been a grueling schedule with Sunday’s game against New York being the team’s sixth in nine days.
And the adjustment he made on Sunday -- taking Rozier out of the lineup and replacing him with Green -- proved to be one of the many keys to Boston (18-13) winning for the fifth time in its last six games.
Following the game, Stevens had nothing but praise for how Green came through with arguably his most impactful game during this second tour of duty with the Celtics.
Green had eight points on 3-for-6 shooting, with five points coming in the second quarter which is when the Celtics took control of the game to lead 56-48 at the half.
“That’s what you need your bench to do,” Stevens said. “He did a great job.”
And to Green’s credit, Green hasn’t grumbled or griped publicly during his second stint with the team that drafted him out of high school even though things have not gone as smoothly as he would have liked.
His minutes have been sporadic because truth be told, that up-and-down nature has symbolized his play this season.
He has appeared in 14 games this season, averaging 4.0 points and 2.0 rebounds while shooting 31.7 percent from the field -- all of which are career-lows for the veteran.
Following the win, Green spoke about what he has done to stay ready despite his minutes being inconsistent this season.
“You have to get your extra work in,” Green told reporters. “It’s tough at times. You just have to stay motivated. I give a lot of praise to the coaches and the players keeping me ready, keeping me engaged at all times.”
Said Thomas: “That’s what it’s about. Next man up. When your name is called, take advantage of the opportunity… Hell of a game by Gerald Green. He doesn’t know when he’s getting in the game and he just stayed ready and he came in (on Sunday). He was a spark for us. We needed that.”
But with Green’s emergence, that means someone’s minutes are likely to be cut or wiped out altogether.
That player is Rozier, who did not play for the first time this season on Sunday.
Stevens would not commit to Rozier’s benching being anything more than a one-game thing. But having said that, he wouldn’t say whether Rozier would immediately return to the lineup for Tuesday’s game against Memphis.
Rozier’s minutes being cut or eliminated made a lot of sense for Boston considering how he has struggled of late, although Stevens said part of the reason had to do with having more flexibility in posting Marcus Smart up in the post with Rozier out of the lineup.
“The ability to post Smart is helpful,” Stevens said. “And when Smart can post on 1one’s (point guards), it’s different than wings (small forwards or big shooting guards).”
Certainly Rozier’s struggles of late shooting the ball had to factor in the decision as well.
In his last five games, the second-year guard has averaged 2.0 points, 1.8 rebounds and 1.0 assists while shooting just 26.7 percent from the field – all below his season average.
“We’ll see,” said Stevens when asked about whether Rozier being held out was a situational matter. “Our bench has to all be ready to play and play well. Nobody deserved to play better today, then Gerald. I think everybody should be happy for him. I thought he gave us a great lift.”
And Stevens knowing when to make that decision speaks not only to his ability to lead this team, but also the pulse he has on what has to be done in order for the Celtics to have the best shot at success.