HOUSTON – Marcus Morris was knocking down shots all over the floor. Ditto for Terry Rozier and Greg Monroe.
Marcus Smart was having a decent night as well.
It was just the kind of performance Boston needed from its bench in order to compete with a Houston Rockets team that came into Saturday’s game with the best record in the NBA.
Even with the Celtics bench having their best scoring game of the season, it still wasn’t enough as the Rockets edged the Boston Celtics 123-120.
Smart launched a desperation 3-point shot as the final horn sounded that grazed the rim as time expired.
“When I released it, I thought it was (going in),” Smart said.
If it did, it wouldn’t have been a total shock considering how the game was playing out for Boston’s bench which tallied a season-high 67 points.
“They were great,” said Celtics head coach Brad Stevens of his second unit players. “I didn’t think we were great out of the gates, but we were great off the bench and I thought obviously Terry (Rozier III) is playing at a high level. I thought (Marcus) Smart was great in the first half, and Greg Monroe played great, and I thought Marcus (Morris) obviously had another really good game. We’re going to need those guys and then some to continue to help us.”
Leading the Celtics’ second unit scoring was Morris who had a team-high 21 points. In fact, three of Boston’s top four scorers on Saturday came off the bench.
“We’re just going out there and playing,” said Morris when asked about the improved play of the bench since returning from the All-Star break.
Said Rozier: “We know we can play. We’re here for a reason. A lot of people may have their doubts; there are a lot of things that weren’t going well throughout the season. But we’re the ones that have to play. We have to keep it going, finish out the season strong for our team.”
Boston came into Saturday’s game averaging 53.5 bench points since the all-star break which ranks third in the NBA according to hoopsstats.com.
Prior to the All-Star break, Boston’s 32.1 bench points per game ranked 23rd in the NBA.
Their improved play comes at a time when the Celtics sense the need to start clicking in all phases of play, never knowing what will be needed in the postseason in order to win.
“The bench is really coming together at the right time,” said Boston’s Al Horford. “And that’s one of the encouraging things (following Saturday’s loss). Even though we didn’t win the game, I feel like we will all be better.”