BOSTON – For most of the preseason, questions have lingered surrounding the Boston Celtics as to who would join their Big Three – Kyrie Irving, Gordon Hayward and Al Horford – in the starting lineup.
But for Boston to find itself playing well into May and early June this season, a key piece to that puzzle will be the play of their bench.
Like most of what the Celtics have been doing this preseason, figuring out the second unit has indeed been a work in progress.
That will continue tonight as the Celtics (2-0) host the Philadelphia 76ers (0-2) at the TD Garden.
“There’s a few of us, but it’s very fun,” said Boston’s Aron Baynes, one of 10 new faces on the Celtics roster. “We’re getting into the rhythm of things. The more we play with each other, the more comfortable we feel.”
While it’s unclear who will make up Boston’s second unit, there’s little doubt about Marcus Smart being the leader of that unit.
“He’s always going to give the bench a lift,” said Celtics guard Terry Rozier. “He’s a guy that’s going to work hard to make those guys around him work hard.”
Baynes echoed similar sentiments about Smart.
“Marcus is a special defender,” Baynes said. “He’s shown that in the first few games. I think it’s gonna be fun playing with him.”
While the second unit has to play well, there will be times when head coach Brad Stevens will go with combinations that mix starters with second unit players.
In fact, don’t be surprised if you see Gordon Hayward or Kyrie Irving on the floor for the bulk of most games.
For that to happen, it means that both players will have to work on not only meshing their games with the starting group but also with key role players off the bench.
“You want to play the game the same,” Hayward said. “The personnel changes a little bit; you’re trying to help guys maximize their strengths. You have to be conscious of that when different guys come in, or when you’re with a different group, knowing what those guys like to do.”
Kyrie Irving vs Markelle Fultz
In the third quarter of Boston’s 110-102 win at Philadelphia on Friday, Irving got into a nice shooting rhythm and wound up leading all scorers with 21 points. A sore shoulder injury kept Fultz from playing in that game, but it’s clear he’s eager to face another former No. 1 pick (Irving) such as himself. “Any chance you get the chance to test yourself against one of the best point guards in the NBA, I love to do that so I can see where I am, see what I need to improve on," Fultz told reporters.
If Marcus Morris makes his debut for the Celtics tonight, will he be in the starting lineup? And if so, how long will he play?
“These games, they’re a good tune-up. It’s about being ready for Cleveland October 17.” – Celtics forward Marcus Morris.