Celtics

It's time for Terry Rozier to step up . . . and he has

It's time for Terry Rozier to step up . . . and he has

BOSTON -- Terry Rozier wasn’t supposed to be on the floor in the waning moments of a playoff game, with everything on the line.

This was supposed to be Kyrie Irving or Marcus Smart’s time, the point in the game when your best scorers (Irving) or defenders (Smart) put the team on their back and carry the squad to victory.

Terry Rozier may not be Kyrie Irving (out for the season following left knee surgery) or Marcus Smart (right thumb surgery, may be back for a Game 7 versus the Bucks at the earliest), but it’s hard to not recognize that the 6-foot-2 guard is built for these moments.

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In the first half of Boston’s Game 1 matchup against Boston, Rozier looked the part that so many had cast him to be – a backup getting big minutes because the real star isn’t available.

And that slight, something Rozier is all too familiar with dating back to college and on the eve of the NBA draft when most pundits saw him as a “reach” for the Celtics at No. 16, is only added fuel to a young man who has dreamed of being on the floor with the game up in the air, the ball in his hands.

Some players are groomed and coached for those moments.

And then there are players like Rozier who steps on the floor with Teflon-tough confidence that regardless of the score, regardless of how he may have played up until that point, he’s going to give his team a chance to win when it matters.

That was how Sunday’s game was playing out.

For three-plus quarters of so-so basketball, Rozier had a chance to break open a 96-all tie with just a few ticks left on the game clock.

And in typical Scary Terry fashion, he showed no signs of hesitation in draining a 3-pointer that we all thought was the game-winner, a shot that put the Celtics ahead 99-96 with 0.5 seconds to play.

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But following a Bucks time-out, Milwaukee’s Khris Middleton drained a game-tying 3-pointer to force overtime.

And so the Celtics found themselves in overtime which would once again challenge the team’s maturity and mental toughness to not let Middleton’s big shot be their demise.

“Well I think you can tell a lot from the fight on the tip, and you know we got the tip after two tips and running through the ball to get a loose ball, and that’s when I knew we were re-set,” said coach Brad Stevens. “I knew they wouldn’t hang their head about it, they’re – sometimes I think they’re at their best when those things happen. You know? I think it’s just a really resilient group of kids. Not kids, men.”

The clarification on Stevens’ part should not be ignored.

Because what we saw on Sunday was yet another sign of the transformation of this team which began the season as the fifth-youngest club in the NBA with lots of youth, to a battle-tested bunch that plays with more poise, purpose and production that’s beyond their years.

And while we spend a lot of time talking about Jayson Tatum along those lines, Rozier has proven he too has come of age at a time when the Celtics absolutely need him.

“Terry’s a stud,” Stevens said. “Terry is a hard-nosed guy. He’s got great ability.”

And toughness.

More than any trait, it is Rozier’s toughness that enables him to give both himself and the Celtics a shot at success whenever he’s on the floor.

“This is my third time in the playoffs and it just keeps getting better,” said Rozier who acknowledged his shot at major playing time in the playoffs was due to Boston’s unusually high rash of injuries. “It’s unfortunate what happened to our teammates throughout the whole year, but we still got each other and we still got to fight, still got to win.”

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Bucks vs. Celtics: It's all come down to 'who wants it the most'

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File photo

Bucks vs. Celtics: It's all come down to 'who wants it the most'

MILWAUKEE -- Khris Middleton knows what’s at stake so there’s no need to sugarcoat or downplay the significance of tonight’s Game 6 matchup between the Boston Celtics and the Milwaukee Bucks. 

“Just win or go home,” Middleton said. “You can’t leave nothing on the line.”

Boston will come into tonight’s game with a similar approach, aware that regardless of what happens in Game 6, they will live to see another game at the TD Garden on Saturday at 8 p.m. EST. They could play Game 7 against Milwaukee or Game 1 of the second round against Philadelphia.

But the Celtics will tell you the sooner they can put away this Bucks team, the better off they’ll be. 

At this point in the series, there are no true surprises for either team.

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“Fifth time playing each other, you’re gonna know each other’s game pretty well by now,” said Milwaukee guard Matthew Dellavedova. “So it’s definitely some things we can do better, and we’ll execute better in game six.”

Like most playoff series, adjustments have a way of often being the difference between winning and losing. 

Milwaukee struck first by inserting Malcolm Brogdan into the starting lineup from Game 3 on, to replace Tony Snell who has struggled shooting the ball (29.4 percent) most of this series. And a back injury to John Henson afforded more playing time to ex-Celtic Tyler Zeller and Thon Maker, with the latter having dominant performances in Games 3 and 4, but being a non-factor in Boston’s Game 5 win which gave the Celtics a 3-2 series lead.

Boston has since countered with Marcus Smart making his playoff debut this season in Game 5 after being out six weeks with a right thumb injury, while Semi Ojeleye got his first NBA start in Boston’s Game 5 win as well. 

“It made it a little bit easier for us (defensively),” said Jaylen Brown, referring to Ojeleye’s first NBA start. “Because we can switch . . . we’re all the same. That made it a lot easier for us.”

"It’s gonna come down to who owns their space, who wants it the most and who’s gonna fight for it,” Brown said. “All that X’s and O’s and stuff  . . . it’s gonna come down to that (who wants it, fights for it more) at the end of the day.”

Terry Rozier added, “It’s gonna be a dog fight but we look to come out on top.”

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Another late error by refs: Celts should have been called for shot-clock violation

Another late error by refs: Celts should have been called for shot-clock violation

MILWAUKEE -- The NBA’s two-minute report from Boston’s 92-87 Game 5 win on Tuesday confirmed what many thought at the time: A 3-point heave by Al Horford with 1:18 remaining in the fourth quarter and the Celtics leading 84-79 was not released prior to the 24-second shot clock expiring, and the Bucks should have been awarded the ball.
 
Following the game, Milwaukee interim head coach Joe Prunty was vocal in his belief that the officials made a mistake in not calling a 24-second violation. The lead official, Ken Mauer, told a pool reporter that the play was not reviewable because Horford missed the shot. Had he made it, the referees could have reviewed it.
 
“The rule states that under two minutes we are not allowed to review a potential 24-second violation unless the ball goes into the basket,” Mauer said.
 
Prunty understood the reason for the refusal to review the play, but that didn’t make it any easier to deal with. 
 
The Bucks were focused on getting the ball back and, trailing 84-79, would have had a chance to make it a one-possession game with about a minute to play. The call didn't cost Milwaukee any points, even though the Celtics successfully rebounded Horford's miss and retained possession; Marcus Morris subsequently missed a shot. Still, Boston was able to take about 20 seconds off the clock.

“That was a huge stop to get in Game 5 of a playoff series where both teams are putting everything on the line,” Prunty said after practice on Wednesday. “That’s a tough time to have a missed call. I know for me, I had a great view of it. So what I thought was a shot-clock violation was not called.”

In Sunday's Game 4, the NBA said Milwaukee's Khris Middleton should have been called for fouling Jaylen Brown with less than a minute to play as Brown drove to the basket attempting to extend Boston's 100-99 lead. Instead Brown lost the ball and the Bucks eventuallly pulled out a 104-102 victory.
 
That specific call was one of 15 made by the officials in the final two minutes of play. Of the calls made, the other 14 were correct calls or correct non-calls upon review.