Shane Larkin was anything but an obvious choice for Brad Stevens when it came to pick who would start in place of Kyrie Irving who was out with a sore left knee.
Marcus Smart and Terry Rozier have been the guys to fill in for Irving in the past. And with both playing so well off the Celtics bench, it would have made a lot of sense for Stevens’ pool of possible replacements for Irving was a pool of two.
And while we’ve heard Stevens speak of how he’s confident in any player on the roster, these are the times when Stevens’ words are put to the test.
His decision to go with Larkin worked well for both the player and the team as Boston had no problem beating the Chicago Bulls 105-89.
Larkin, making his first start for the Celtics and first in the NBA since 2016, had nine points on 3-for-3 shooting to go with four rebounds and four assists.
“I felt good,” Larking told reporters after the game.
Although Larkin was filling in for the Celtics’ leading scorer, he knew his role wasn’t about replicating what Irving brought to the table.
Aware that the Celtics have others who can score besides Irving, Larkin was more concerned with his defense and making sure he got his teammates the ball where they could play their game.
“I was trying to get in the lane and let those guys be effective,” Larkin said. “I felt it was a good job today.”
Said Celtics head coach Brad Stevens: “He was great; he was great. We talked about who should start and everything else. When you trust all three of those guys, then it becomes who do you want to play off the bench. He was really good tonight.”
His teammates echoed similar sentiments.
“It was nice to see him step up to the challenge,” said Boston’s Al Horford. “Shane is a professional, very professional. He stays ready. It was good to see him with that … he brings a lot of energy anytime that he comes on the floor. And tonight we needed it.”
And unlike some games we’ve seen pitting the Celtics against a cellar-dweller, they did not give the Bulls any hope that this game would be anything other than a blowout.
Larkin, making his first NBA start since 2016, was mindful of how important it would be for the Celtics to get off to a good start.
Boston did just that as they more than doubled up the Bulls in the first quarter which ended with the Celtics holding a commanding 35-16 lead.
“It was very important for me and the team,” Larkin said. “Last time we were here they jumped on us early. Today, we wanted to make sure we hit them early. On my end, every time I’m out there I’m trying to make positive impact play.”