Rozier takes advantage of opportunity provided by Irving's absence

NBC Sports Boston illustration

Rozier takes advantage of opportunity provided by Irving's absence

Terry Rozier is living on borrowed time. 
He knows this.
As soon as Kyrie Irving’s right quadriceps bruise heals, possibly as early as tonight against Toronto, Rozier will be back to coming off the Celtics bench. 
But in the three games Rozier has been in the starting lineup, the third-year guard has opened the eyes of many to his potential. 
That said, how will he handle what’s sure to be a reduced upon Irving’s return?
“I’m going to come off the bench and be aggressive,” Rozier said.
That’s always been a focus for Rozier. 
But it’s different now that he's had a taste of what it’s like to have the responsibility of carrying the team for long stretches, as was the case at times during the last three games without Irving. 
 “The man above gave me a chance to start, just to see how aggressive I can be,” said Rozier who averaged 19.7 points, 5.7 assists and 8 rebounds in his three games as a starter. “No matter if I come off the bench or not, I’m going to stay with that aggression that I have.
He added: “This was the perfect situation for me. I needed this to happen.”
Here are five under-the-radar story lines to watch heading into tonight’s game between the Boston Celtics and the Toronto Raptors. 



Al Horford extending his range in recent years has made him one of the best stretch bigs in the NBA. Toronto’s Jonas Valanciunas is the latest attempting to follow suit as an inside-outside scoring big man. He comes into tonight’s game having made at least one 3-pointer in each of Toronto’s last three games, a first for him. Although a small sample size, Valanciunas is shooting 47.1 percent (16-for-34) from 3-point range this season.







One of the keys to Toronto’s high-powered offense, is how they’re capable of generating points in transition. They come into tonight’s game averaging 18.4 points per game off turnovers which ranks fourth in the NBA. And the Celtics do a good job of getting back defensively, which has limited their opponent’s transition game. Boston allows 15.0 points scored off turnovers per game, which ranks seventh in the league.


Keeping Toronto’s bigs and penetrating guards out of the paint will be difficult, but far from impossible for the Boston Celtics. Toronto averages 48.4 points in the paint this season which ranks fourth in the NBA. Meanwhile, Boston’s defense has limited teams to 42.8 points in the paint per game which ranks as the eighth-fewest amount of points allowed in the paint per game this season.


DeMar DeRozan’s mid-range game is arguably the best in the NBA. But by no means is he the only Raptor player that Boston has to be concerned with tonight. As a team, Toronto is shooting 41.8 percent on mid-range shots according to NBA.com, which ranks eighth in the NBA. The Celtics defensively are one of the best at defending mid-range shots, with opponents shooting just 36.9 percent against them (fourth in the NBA). Not only do the C's do a good job of contesting mid-range shots, but they also have shown the ability to make them at a relatively high clip, too. Boston is shooting 42.9 percent on mid-range shots this year, which ranks fourth in the NBA. And Toronto’s defense, while solid overall, has struggled when it comes to defending mid-range shots. Teams are shooting 41.9 percent against them on mid-range attempts which ranks 25th in the league. 



One of the subplots to tonight’s game involves a Celtics team that’s seemingly at their best on the road, against a Toronto team that protects its home turf better than any team in the NBA. Only Golden State (22-6 away from Oracle Arena) has a better record than the Celtics’ 18-7 mark. Meanwhile, Toronto boasts a league-best 21-4 record at the Air Canada Centre this season.



Have Celtics solved their second-quarter problem?

Have Celtics solved their second-quarter problem?

Let’s face it.

The second quarter has been a major problem for the Celtics this season.

And then there’s Friday night in a 110-98 victory in Detroit, where the Celtics outscored the Pistons 38-21 in the second to take control of the game.

The 38 points tied a season-high for second-quarter scoring and the +17 scoring margin in the quarter was their best in a second quarter this season.

Boston’s point differential for the season speaks to how, while the Celtics don’t score a ton of points, their defense allows them to have a bit of a scoring cushion most nights.

For the season, Boston’s point differential of +3.7 ranks fourth in the league behind Houston (+8.9), Toronto (+8.3) and Golden State (+8.1).

Still, if you hone in on what the Celtics do in the second quarter...it’s not pretty.

Their scoring differential this season in the second quarter is -1.1, which ranks in the bottom 10 in the NBA (24th specifically).

Here are five under-the-radar storylines you might not be thinking about heading into tonight’s game between the Celtics and Knicks as they close out their regular-season series (Boston leads, 2-1):


With the victory in Detroit, the Celtics won their 20th road game of the season. The victory puts them in select company in the NBA. Only Golden State (22-7) and Houston (21-7) have more road wins or a better road record than the Celtics (20-8).


Seeing Aron Baynes head to the bench and soon after towards the locker room with an elbow injury was not a good look. Following the win at Detroit, Celtics coach Brad Stevens said Baynes had not been ruled out from playing tonight. Boston has been atop the NBA most of this season defensively and the play of Baynes has been critical to that success. Prior to the Pistons game, Boston’s defensive rating when Baynes was on the floor was 96.4. When he was not playing, it ballooned to 103.5.


You always have to be on guard when Beasley’s in the building. While his season numbers may suggest he’s a role player coming off the bench who can maybe score a little, don’t be fooled. Beasley is a cold-blooded scoring assassin who can kill a defense with his wide array of scoring techniques. The Celtics saw this up close earlier this season when Beasley dropped a season-high 32 points the Knicks' 102-93 victory over Boston on Dec. 21.


Boston can’t wait to flip the calendar and get on to March, because February has been brutal for the defense. In the four previous months this season, Boston’s defensive rating always ranked among the top-10 each month. But in February, Boston’s defensive rating of 108.6 currently ranks 16th in the NBA. There’s still time to improve upon that before the month is over, but February is likely to go down as Boston’s worst month defensively this season.


When it comes to history, Boston and New York share more than just being among the original teams when the NBA formed in 1946 (In 1946, the NBA had a different name, the Basketball Association of America. Following its third season, the BAA would merge with the National Basketball League to form what is now known as the NBA). They are also the only teams from the league’s inception that did not disband for a period of time, or move to another city.  



WATCH: Boston Celtics vs. New York Knicks

NBC Sports Boston Graphic

WATCH: Boston Celtics vs. New York Knicks

Tune into NBC Sports Boston to watch the Celtics play the Knicks at Madison Square Garden in New York. You can also click here to watch the Celtics livestream presented by Nissan on the NBC Sports App. Coverage begins at 6:30  p.m. with Celtics Pregame Live Presented by ACE Ticket.

- Game preview: Back-to-back big games from Theis?

- Channel Finder: Make sure you know where to watch

[SHOP: Gear up, Celtics fans!]