Celtics

Celtics

BOSTON -- It had been 239 games since Jonas Jerebko last heard his name introduced in a starting lineup.

Jerebko, who started 73 out of 80 games his rookie season, started just 15 games in the five seasons that followed, making his last start on March 11, 2013.

Prior to the start of Friday night's Game 3, we got word that that streak was about to end. With the Celtics searching for more spacing, they were going small, and Jerebko was getting the start at power forward over Jared Sullinger.

How would it work? At that point, it was anybody's guess. The five-man unit, along with Evan Turner, hadn't had much time on the court together.

But just seconds into the game, Jerebko followed up an Isaiah Thomas miss with a one-handed put-back slam that let everybody know that not only was Jerebko here to start, but he was here to stay.

"One of the things that coach said was to come out and play your game," Jerebko said. "With the first two games, we came out kind of flat. I just wanted to bring that kind of energy at the start of the game and start the game off right. Got a little lucky there on Isaiah’s miss and that started the game off right."

If Boston needed to set the tone early -- and they desperately did -- Jerebko's slam did just that. About two minutes later, he drained a three-pointer.

And as effective as Jerebko was early on, he was just as effective in the later stages. His wacky attempt before the third quarter's buzzer somehow went down, giving the C's a one-point lead heading into the fourth quarter.

 

And Stevens stayed with Jerebko in the fourth, as he played 10:20 of his 36:55 in the final quarter. It was the first time he's hit the 30-minute mark since Feb. 1, 2012.

The "Swedish Swish", as some call him, came through in a big way scoring 11 points and grabbing 12 rebounds while finishing as a team-high plus-14.

But as Brad Stevens said after the game, the Celtics didn't insert Jerebko into the starting lineup to score points. They did so because he's able to stretch things out on offense and open things up for other players like Isaiah Thomas, who oh by the way scored 42 points Friday night.

“He plays really, really, hard," Stevens said of Jerebko. "He’s got versatility with regard to defensively. It’s really hard to switch onto (Jeff) Teague and (Dennis) Schroder, but all of our bigs have to do that some as they get going downhill on you. And then his scoring is just a plus. You know, if he scores, he scores; if not, he’s still spacing for us. And so they have to honor that. And he had a big driving basket with his left hand in the fourth quarter, he had the big basket at the end of the third quarter, but then his defense was really great all night, I thought.”

Jerebko's effectiveness almost guarantees the Celtics stick with him again as a starter on Sunday as they look to even the series.

The dynamic duo of Paul Millsap and Al Horford each scored just eight points Friday night, and large part of that was due to the job Jerebko did on the defensive end. Jeff Teague and Dennis Schroder, however, combined for 43 points.

There's still work to be done, and Jerebko knows it.

"[Guarding multiple positions] is the way we’ve been playing all year when I’ve been in there," Jerebko said. "And he’s been throwing me at the five or the four or the three and we’ve been switching around. Like Isaiah said, just making the other team adjust to what we do. It kinda worked pretty good today, but I think we can do a lot better. Teague got a couple easy buckets on me and so did Schroder. So that’s something I gotta look at the video and take away in the next game."