BOSTON – The Boston Celtics try to be as forward-thinking a franchise as they can, but there are some lessons from the past worth holding on to.
Like remembering how bad they had played in the past when Kyrie Irving wasn’t in the lineup.
“The last two times we played without Kyrie, it was bad; really bad,” Boston’s Daniel Theis told NBC Sports Boston. “We wanted to play better on offense, play better as a team.”
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They did just that in a 103-73 beatdown of the New York Knicks, a game in which Irving sat out due to right quadriceps injury suffered in Boston’s win at Denver on Monday.
Terry Rozier filled in for Irving and tallied a triple-double of 17 points, 11 rebounds and 10 assists in his first start.
But it was the play of many that fueled Boston to win its second straight game, third in the last four.
“This was a good win for us,” Theis said.
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Here are five takeaways from Boston's 103-73 thumping of the New York Knicks on Wednesday night.
Elite Celtics defense
We have seen the Celtics put on their share of defensive clinics this season. But Wednesday’s performance ranks among the best we’ve seen all season. The Knicks played the previous night against Brooklyn, but they won that game going away which meant their core players didn’t play an outrageously high amount of minutes. Boston's defense was just that good, finishing with an insane team defensive rating of 72.1 with every Celtic who played, finishing with a defensive rating of less than 100.
One start, one triple-double. Rozier is the latest example of the “Next Man Up” movement among the Boston Celtics. Five-time All-Star Kyrie Irving couldn’t go, so all-the-time reserve Terry Rozier steps up and into the spotlight with a 17-point, 11-rebound, 10-assist performance in his first NBA start.
There are some nights when it’s more obvious than others, but Boston’s second unit has to deliver on the defensive end at a high level. With Boston’s usual starting five, most nights they are going to collectively score enough to give Boston a shot at winning. But it’s on the bench to deliver defensively because as you look at the team’s second unit players, that’s the one thing that most of them have done at a high level. And with Marcus Morris scoring the way he has of late, Boston’s bench has all the pieces in place to be tenacious defense, timely shot-making group.
He gets a tremendous amount of praise for the job he has done, but what sets him apart from many is the visionary aspect he brings to coaching. Down to just one point guard (Terry Rozier) due to injuries, he put the ball for some stretches in the hands of his next-best playmaker, Al Horford, who just happens to play power forward/center for them. If not for the monster game that Rozier had, there would have been more talk about Horford running the point while finishing with 14 points, nine rebounds and five assists with just one turnover.
Taking care of business
The New York Knicks are a bad team, one that’s still technically a playoff contender. But they know, their fans know and most important, opponents know they’re not going to the postseason this year. And as tough as it may be to play a team like Golden State, it is in many ways just as challenging to beat a team that you’re supposed to. Boston (37-15) has the best overall record in the East and are third in the NBA behind Golden State (40-11) and Houston (36-13). But when it comes to facing teams with a losing record, Boston’s 19-6 record ranks sixth in the league and second to Toronto (20-3) among Eastern Conference clubs. Regardless of the opponent, Boston needs to continue to find ways to win regardless of who the opponent may be.