BOSTON – Having led the Orlando Magic by as many as 32 points on Friday, Brad Stevens turned to his bench a bit earlier than usual.
And when they had problems early in the fourth, he stuck with them for the most part in what turned into a game that wasn’t nearly as close as the final score might indicate.
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That extra time on the bench for Boston’s core guys could come in handy tonight as the Celtics hit the road to face an Indiana Pacers team that’s playing some of its best basketball of the season.
The Pacers (11-8) have won five in a row, the second-longest winning streak in the East behind Cleveland's seven in a row.
While the scoring numbers haven’t been to the Celtics’ liking, their bench has been a positive factor in the team’s success.
Getting those guys more minutes in the Orlando game while resting his starters, was a win-win for the Celtics (17-3).
Stevens acknowledged going to the bench for most of the fourth quarter not only helps them leading into tonight’s game but also in what has been a challenging stretch of play lately.
Tonight will be Boston’s 10th game in 19 nights, the kind of stretch that will challenge any player or team to be at the top of their game.
And while Boston hasn’t played its best basketball at times, the Celtics have still managed to find ways to consistently win.
Several factors have contributed to Boston’s struggles at times, including a second unit that has not developed a consistent or reliable scorer.
Terry Rozier hopes to be that player, and certainly took a step in the right direction with a career-high 23 points in the win over the Magic on Friday.
“Offensively, as a team, we’ve been struggling,” Rozier said. “Especially, definitely the bench.”
That’s why Friday’s win was so vital; not only to add one more win to the team total but to also do it with the bench contributing 50 points.
“It feels good to get points as a unit,” Rozier said.
Indeed, it’s not a coincidence that the Celtics’ best scoring night of the season came on a night when the bench had its best scoring output of the season.
But tonight’s second unit for Boston will look a little different.
Marcus Morris, who still plays with minutes restriction, is also being held out from playing in back-to-back games. Morris, who missed the first eight games of the season with left knee soreness, did not make the trip to Indiana.
Boston may also be without Jaylen Brown.
He is attending the funeral today of his best friend Trevin Steede who will be buried in Marietta, Georgia. Brown said he will try and make it to Indiana in time for tonight’s game but has been given permission by the Celtics to miss the game.
“My intention is to make it back,” Brown said following the win over Orlando. “If I can, I’ll definitely be playing [against the Pacers]. But we’ll see.”