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.

MORE CELTICS-BUCKS

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.

NOT-SO-AVERAGE AL

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.”

NBC SPORTS BOSTON SCHEDULE

How to watch/stream Milwaukee Bucks vs Boston Celtics, Game 5

How to watch/stream Milwaukee Bucks vs Boston Celtics, Game 5

Tune into NBC Sports Boston to watch Game 5 of the opening round of the NBA playoffs, as the Celtics host the Bucks at TD Garden. You can also click here to watch the Celtics livestream presented by Nissan on the NBC Sports App. Coverage begins at 6 p.m. with Celtics Pregame Live Presented by ACE Ticket.

- Game preview: C's: Game 5 will come down to 'who wants it more'

- Channel Finder: Make sure you know where to watch

[SHOP: Gear up, Celtics fans!]

Celtics: Game 5 will come down to 'who wants it more'

Celtics: Game 5 will come down to 'who wants it more'

BOSTON -- We are at that point in this Boston-Milwaukee playoff series where X’s and O’s have little value. 

There’s very little either team can do at this point that would come as a complete shock to the other, and make sense at the same time. 

“It’s nothing new anymore,” said Jayson Tatum. “We’ve played them four games in a row. We know what we are going to do, they know what we are going to do.”

MORE ON THE SERIES

So what’s left?

“It’s just effort,” Tatum said. “Who wants it more.”

So far in this series, desire to win has been directly tied with the game’s location. 

Boston won an overtime nail-biter in Game 1 at the TD Garden and followed that up with another win in Game 2. The Bucks returned home and delivered a decisive Game 3 beatdown, then survived a late Celtics surge in Game 4 to hold on for a two-point win that included some late-game controversy

“The biggest thing that you learn as you go further into this is transition matters so much more; and rebounding matters so much more,” said Celtics coach Brad Stevens. “Making the right reads on offense matters so much more and those are the things that are somewhat within your control.”

And control is exactly what’s at stake tonight for both teams, knowing the loser will be in the first true must-win scenario when these two square off again in Milwaukee for Game 6. 

The significance of tonight is not lost on any of the Celtics players.

“Got to protect home court,” said Jaylen Brown. “Got to protect our house. They felt comfortable the last two games until those last few quarters, and that’s how we want to continue to play.”

Boston fell behind by 20 points (65-45) in the third quarter of Game 4, then steadily chipped away at the Bucks lead and eventually went ahead 100-99 with less than a minute to play on a jumper by Tatum. 

But Milwaukee eventually came away with the victory following a tip-in by Giannis Antetokounmpo with 5.1 seconds to play. 

Boston had one last chance to tie the game and force overtime, but Marcus Morris’ fadeaway jumper was off the mark as the final horn sounded. 

The Celtics had practice on Monday and watched some video. But at this point, there’s very little they will do or see that will dramatically change their outlook and approach to tonight’s game other than the prospect of Marcus Smart (right thumb) suiting up tonight. That seemed a long shot until late Monday afternoon when the Celtics listed him as “questionable” for the game, the first time since his right thumb was surgically repaired last month that he hasn't been ruled out.

MORE ON MARCUS SMART

Regardless of who steps on the floor, the Celtics know at this point there are no secrets among these two teams.

“It becomes a game of inches now,” Brown said. “We played this team what, three or four times in the regular season, now it’s game five of the playoffs. We both know. Through the film, like we both know what each team wants to do and get out of it. Now it’s just who is going to come out on top.”

NBC SPORTS BOSTON SCHEDULE