Terry Rozier

What's fueled this latest Celtics' run? Some rest

What's fueled this latest Celtics' run? Some rest

BOSTON – The thinking was given more time to practice, the Celtics would be able to clean up some of the slippage we saw in a rough patch of play in December.

Still, instead of more practice reps, having a chance to rest has been a key to the team’s recent formula for success.

MORE CELTICS:

That was made abundantly clear in Boston’s 91-84 win over Minnesota on Friday night.

It was a relatively close game, but it was a game in which Boston seemed to play with a little more bounce, more energy than we had seen a couple weeks ago.

“Well, we’ve had two practices and a snow day,” said Celtics coach Brad Stevens. “I think the most important thing has been the off-time. I thought it helped our defensive intensity.”

Shot-making proved difficult for both teams most of the night, but it was Boston that ratcheted up its play defensively in the fourth that led to six, fourth-quarter points off of Minnesota mistakes while Boston turned the ball over three times in the fourth without it costing them a single point.

And the team’s strong surge in the fourth was fueled by the defense as well as some timely shot-making.

After a Jamal Crawford 3-pointer early in the fourth brought the Timberwolves within 66-65, the Celtics responded with a 19-8 run to take a 12-point lead (85-73) which was their largest lead of the night.

From there, the Celtics' control of the game was never an issue as Boston (32-10) extended its winning streak to five.

“Our defensive intensity and focus was great all night,” Stevens said. “And then to win a game like this against a really good team where you can’t make a shot is, you know, that’s a good thing. Because you’re going to have nights like that, and you just have to find a way.”

Finding that path towards success is easier to discover with a little more rest, something the Celtics can attest to.

Terry Rozier, who had a near double-double with 14 points and nine rebounds off the bench, was asked about where this sudden surge of energy has come from.

“It’s coming from a little bit of everybody,” he said. “We got a lot of games. We play a lot of games. You’ve got to find a way to get your energy going, and some games the first unit will start off well, and sometimes our second group picks us up. We just got to find ways to come out with a lot of energy through these games because it’s tough.”

NBC SPORTS BOSTON SCHEDULE

Rozier and bench again lead way as Celtics top T'Wolves, 91-84

Rozier and bench again lead way as Celtics top T'Wolves, 91-84

BOSTON – Kyrie Irving remains the headliner when it comes to the Celtics this season.

But lately, it has been the C's supporting cast – Terry Rozier specifically - that has taken center stage.

MORE CELTICS:

Friday night was yet another impressive outing as Boston pulled away with a bench-led, fourth-quarter surge that paved the way for a 91-84 win over Minnesota at TD Garden.

And while there were plenty of backups ballin’ out for the Celtics (32-10, the play of Rozier once again stood out.

After leading all scorers with 20 points in the win over Cleveland on Wednesday, he was even more impressive on Friday night with a near double-double of 14 points and nine rebounds in 22 minutes.

Boston also got a strong bench game from Marcus Smart, who led most of the Celtics in scoring most of the night before finishing with a team-high 18 points.

As a unit, they outscored their Minnesota backup brethren, 42-20. 

And while Irving’s teammates off the bench were instrumental in the victory, the four-time All-Star had his usual moments in which he also dominated as he finished with a near triple-double of 16 points to go with nine rebounds and eight assists.

As for the Timberwolves, Karl-Anthony Towns was as dominant a player as the Celtics have faced this season. He led Minnesota (24-16) with 25 points and 23 rebounds.

Timberwolves All-Star Jimmy Butler had 14 points and six assists for Minnesota which has now lost two in a row after winning seven of its previous eight games.

The way both teams shot the ball in the second half was significantly better than the frigid shooting display put on by both teams at the start of the game.

The easy explanation for the horrific shooting by both teams was to blame it on Mother Nature and the cold temps in Boston that maybe just maybe, factored into such cold shooting by both teams.

At the half, Boston held a slim 41-38 lead in large part by limiting the Timberwolves to 32.6 percent shooting.

But the Celtics weren’t much better, connecting on a not-so-great 39.1 percent of their shot attempts.

The third quarter was better for both teams in terms of shooting the ball.

Boston seemingly spread the offensive love around while Minnesota seemed to focus more on getting the ball into Butler as much as possible when he was matched up against Irving.

And unlike most games when teams try to do that, Irving was not able to effectively go back at the Timberwolves, who limited him to a rough shooting night most of the quarter.

But Irving had the last laugh, finishing the quarter with a drive that put the Celtics up 66-62 going into the fourth quarter.

NBC SPORTS BOSTON SCHEDULE

 

Stevens pushes the right buttons vs. Cavs

Stevens pushes the right buttons vs. Cavs

BOSTON – Having good players is half the battle when it comes to winning at a high level. How they are utilized is just as important.

On Wednesday night, Celtics coach Brad Stevens was seemingly pushing all the right buttons when his team pulled away for a surprisingly comfortable 102-88 win over Cleveland.

MORE CELTICS:

Stevens has said all season that there would be a certain fluidity to his lineups this season because of the team’s depth and ability to have more opponent-specific rotations.

For example, Stevens felt he needed more skilled talent with his first group so he put Marcus Morris in the lineup which slid Al Horford over to center to better match up against Kevin Love.

And with the lineups utilized most often by the Cavs, it also meant fewer minutes for rookie big man Daniel Theis.

Theis only played five minutes, but managed to knock down a pair of 3-pointers to finish with six points.

And with Morris in the starting lineup, that created more scoring opportunities for Boston’s bench players with the biggest beneficiary of that being Terry Rozier.

He led all players with 20 points on 8-for-12 shooting.

Not only was Stevens pleased with his team’s play, but also how easily his players have embraced roles that might be expanded on one night and non-existent another.

“There’s going to be games where we’ll start Al [Horford] and [Aron] Baynes and Theis will play 20 minutes,” Stevens said. “And there will be games where it’s a little bit more difficult to do that, based on the shooting that’s out on the floor. And so, I just appreciate the willingness of all these guys to play their roles to the best of their ability, because that’s how teams work.”

Here are five other takeaways from Boston’s 102-88 win over Cleveland:

BENCH PLAY
This has been seen by many as one of the Celtics’ biggest weaknesses this season. But as we get deeper into the season and they get healthier, the bench's play is becoming more impactful in a positive way. They average 31.3 points scored per game which, according to Hoopsstats.com, ranks 23rd in the NBA. But in the past five games, they are averaging 39.0 points per game which ranks 11th in the league in that span.

TERRY ROZIER
When you’re talking about the Celtics bench and their play, a lot of that chatter begins and ends with the play of Rozier. He has logged more minutes off the bench (952) than anyone in the NBA this season which gives him plenty of time to deliver the goods. Did he ever on Wednesday, scoring a game-high 20 points in just under 20 minutes of play.  

AL HORFORD'S TWO-WAY GAME
We’ve seen Al Horford have better games statistically, but Wednesday’s game against Cleveland was one of his finer moments in Boston. He had 11 points on 5-for-7 shooting to go with nine rebounds and three assists. But more impressive was his defense on Kevin Love who wound up with two points after missing 10 of his 11 shots from the field.

PASSING GAME
The plan every game for Boston is to do a good job in moving the ball so that good shots can become great ones with an extra pass or two. That was indeed on display Wednesday with the Celtics having 27 assists on 41 made baskets. To put that in perspective, the Celtics are now 16-2 this season when they tally 24 or more assists in a game.

FAST START
One of Boston’s strengths has been its ability to put teams in catch-up mode early and often. At the end of the first quarter on Wednesday, Boston held a 32-21 lead over the Cavs. The Celtics have now outscored opponents in the first quarter in 14 of their last 20 games.

NBC SPORTS BOSTON SCHEDULE