BOSTON – When it comes to getting baskets down the stretch, you can bet more times than not the Boston Celtics will turn to Kyrie Irving.

But as we saw this past season, the Celtics proved that when the game matters they can turn to others who can deliver.

However, each season brings about new challenges along with new roles needing to be played.

We know Irving will certainly be one of it not the number one option in close games for Boston.

But he won’t be the only option, for sure.

Here are five Celtics besides Irving to keep an eye on down the stretch.

Jayson Tatum

Often overlooked in Tatum’s brilliant rookie season, was how well he performed in the clutch which according to the NBA, is if the game is within five points with five minutes or less to play. Under those parameters, Tatum shot 58.8 percent last season which ranked eighth in the NBA among players involved in at least 25 “clutch” situations.  In addition, Tatum shot 60 percent from 3-point range in clutch moments which was second in the league among players who saw action in 25 or more clutch moments. But Tatum displayed solid defensive skills down the stretch as well, evident by his defensive rating of 99.6 in the fourth quarter which ranked second on the team.  

Al Horford

When you think about the Boston Celtics and fourth quarter success, Al Horford isn’t one of the first names that comes to mind. But the numbers in the fourth quarter make it clear that Horford is indeed a factor for Boston down the stretch. Only Kyrie Irving has a better offensive rating than Horford (117.5) in the fourth quarter last season. In addition, his plus/minus in the fourth quarter ranked second on the roster. Combine that with a team-best assist-to-turnover ratio (4:07:1) as well as solid defense and you have a player that Boston certainly feels comfortable with turning to in the fourth quarter.


Terry Rozier

One of the more understated aspects of Terry Rozier last season was his contributions in the fourth quarter. In fact, Rozier led the team in fourth quarter minutes (8.2) which speaks to the confidence head coach Brad Stevens has in him in the final quarter of games. Rozier’s ability as a scorer in the fourth (he was third on the team behind Kyrie Irving and Jayson Tatum) is important, but his improved playmaking skills are even more valuable going forward. Last season, his assists-to-turnover ratio (2.95) in the fourth quarter was third on the team.

Marcus Smart

 You can cringe all you want when he’s taking shots in the fourth quarter but make no mistake about it: Smart is going to be out there and most likely make an impact of some kind. He averaged 7.8 minutes in the fourth quarter last season which was second to Terry Rozier. Smart is on the floor because of his defense (101.1 defensive rating) which was third on the team in the fourth quarter, in addition to his ability at distributing the ball in leading all Celtics guards in the fourth quarter with a 3.04 assists-to-turnover ratio.

Jaylen Brown/Gordon Hayward

 Look for one of these two on the floor down the stretch depending on how the flow of the game is, certain matchups and how both of these guys are playing. Brown will likely see more time in the fourth early on, in part because of the positive things he did last season but also as a means of easing Hayward back into the lineup after missing most of last season. Brown won’t be one of the primary scoring options in the fourth, but he has shown himself to be more than up to the challenge. Last season he shot 51.3 percent from the field in the fourth quarter and was fourth on the team in 3-point shooting (39.1 percent) in the fourth.  As for Hayward, he averaged 5.7 points in the fourth quarter during his last full season (in Utah) of play, which included him being named to his first all-star team. He shot 49.8 percent and shot a similar clip to Brown (39.5 percent) from 3-point range.