Celtics

It's time for Terry Rozier to step up . . . and he has

It's time for Terry Rozier to step up . . . and he has

BOSTON -- Terry Rozier wasn’t supposed to be on the floor in the waning moments of a playoff game, with everything on the line.

This was supposed to be Kyrie Irving or Marcus Smart’s time, the point in the game when your best scorers (Irving) or defenders (Smart) put the team on their back and carry the squad to victory.

Terry Rozier may not be Kyrie Irving (out for the season following left knee surgery) or Marcus Smart (right thumb surgery, may be back for a Game 7 versus the Bucks at the earliest), but it’s hard to not recognize that the 6-foot-2 guard is built for these moments.

MORE CELTICS-BUCKS

In the first half of Boston’s Game 1 matchup against Boston, Rozier looked the part that so many had cast him to be – a backup getting big minutes because the real star isn’t available.

And that slight, something Rozier is all too familiar with dating back to college and on the eve of the NBA draft when most pundits saw him as a “reach” for the Celtics at No. 16, is only added fuel to a young man who has dreamed of being on the floor with the game up in the air, the ball in his hands.

Some players are groomed and coached for those moments.

And then there are players like Rozier who steps on the floor with Teflon-tough confidence that regardless of the score, regardless of how he may have played up until that point, he’s going to give his team a chance to win when it matters.

That was how Sunday’s game was playing out.

For three-plus quarters of so-so basketball, Rozier had a chance to break open a 96-all tie with just a few ticks left on the game clock.

And in typical Scary Terry fashion, he showed no signs of hesitation in draining a 3-pointer that we all thought was the game-winner, a shot that put the Celtics ahead 99-96 with 0.5 seconds to play.

NOT-SO-AVERAGE AL

But following a Bucks time-out, Milwaukee’s Khris Middleton drained a game-tying 3-pointer to force overtime.

And so the Celtics found themselves in overtime which would once again challenge the team’s maturity and mental toughness to not let Middleton’s big shot be their demise.

“Well I think you can tell a lot from the fight on the tip, and you know we got the tip after two tips and running through the ball to get a loose ball, and that’s when I knew we were re-set,” said coach Brad Stevens. “I knew they wouldn’t hang their head about it, they’re – sometimes I think they’re at their best when those things happen. You know? I think it’s just a really resilient group of kids. Not kids, men.”

The clarification on Stevens’ part should not be ignored.

Because what we saw on Sunday was yet another sign of the transformation of this team which began the season as the fifth-youngest club in the NBA with lots of youth, to a battle-tested bunch that plays with more poise, purpose and production that’s beyond their years.

And while we spend a lot of time talking about Jayson Tatum along those lines, Rozier has proven he too has come of age at a time when the Celtics absolutely need him.

“Terry’s a stud,” Stevens said. “Terry is a hard-nosed guy. He’s got great ability.”

And toughness.

More than any trait, it is Rozier’s toughness that enables him to give both himself and the Celtics a shot at success whenever he’s on the floor.

“This is my third time in the playoffs and it just keeps getting better,” said Rozier who acknowledged his shot at major playing time in the playoffs was due to Boston’s unusually high rash of injuries. “It’s unfortunate what happened to our teammates throughout the whole year, but we still got each other and we still got to fight, still got to win.”

NBC SPORTS BOSTON SCHEDULE

NBC Sports Boston's NBA All-Glue-Guy team

NBC Sports Boston's NBA All-Glue-Guy team

BOSTON – When it comes to winning in the NBA, it’s clear that you have to have a few stars on your roster. But to really win at the highest of levels, it requires contributions from players that may go unnoticed but are essential to a team’s success.

These players all have skills, otherwise they wouldn’t be in the NBA.

But often those skills aren’t on full display because for the team to be successful, they need to excel in one or two particular areas.

And with that, here’s the NBA All-Glue team heading into the 2018-2019 season.

Al Horford, Boston Celtics

Here’s why: He might be the most non-descript five-time All-Star of this generation. But that doesn’t diminish the impact that Horford has made ever since he came into the NBA. His ability as a playmaker in the post ranks him among the best passing big men in the NBA. And in recent years, Horford has developed a deadly 3-point shot that makes him even more impactful. But the one thing Horford does as well as any player in the league, is win. He has been in the NBA 11 seasons, each of which involved his teams in Atlanta and Boston getting to the postseason.

Draymond Green, Golden State Warriors

Here’s why: A Three-time All-star and former Defensive Player of the Year (2017), Green is everything you want in a glue guy. He has the versatility to defend all five positions on the floor, and doesn’t grumble about whether he gets enough touches or not. Like Horford, he doesn’t make all-star teams because of his stats; it’s due to the success that his teams have and his role in making that happen.

Malcolm Brogdon, Milwaukee Bucks

Here’s why: As the Bucks make their way into the upper echelon of the Eastern Conference this season, they are going to need reliable players who can handle doing the little things that are needed to win but don’t necessarily appear on the stat sheet. Brogdon isn’t a great scorer, but has shown a fearless nature in close, down-to-the-wire games. Defensively, he can guard multiple positions and not lose his effectiveness. The Bucks don’t win at a high level without Brogdon doing what he does best, which is being a solid contributor in a multitude of areas of the game.

Clint Capela, Houston Rockets

Here’s why: When you think defense in the NBA, the Houston Rockets are one of the last teams that comes to mind. And their defense will be even more challenged with the departures of Trevor Ariza (Phoenix) and Luc Mbah a Moute (Los Angeles Clippers). That leaves Capela, an athletic, rim-protecting rebounder that will be counted on defensively more than any other Rockets player. The 24-year-old big man signed a five-year, $90 million contract this summer which tells you how much the Rockets are counting on him to be a major contributor. Last season, he was seventh in the NBA in contested shots (12.8) per game. But more telling was the fact that Capela averaged 27.0 minutes played per game, while the six players ahead of him logged at least 32 minutes per game according to NBA.com/stats. But as much as that helps, the true value in Capela will be the shot attempts that opponents don’t take because of his presence around the basket, or the turnovers he causes by forcing opponents to make passes or plays they did not intend to do.

Steven Adams, Oklahoma City Thunder

Here’s why: Arguably the strongest player in the NBA, Adams understands knows the pecking order in town begins with Russell Westbrook and Paul George. His role is to be available to score when they’re not, and consistently rebound and defend the hell out of the ball in addition to setting some of the most bone-jarring picks in the NBA. It is that latter part of his game, screen-setting, that really opens things up for both himself and teammates. Last season, Adams was second in the NBA in screen assists (4.9) per game, which is a screen that leads directly to a made basket. It’s not the sexiest stat out there, but it speaks to the value Adams brings to the table that might be overlooked by those outside the Thunder organization.

NBC SPORTS BOSTON SCHEDULE

These guys will put up numbers. But winning games this season? Unlikely

These guys will put up numbers. But winning games this season? Unlikely

BOSTON – The NBA is full of talented players who will put up eye-popping numbers all season, only to come up short more nights than not in what truly matters, winning.

Here we take a look at the best players on bad teams, and by bad we’re talking about clubs that are expected to finish with a sub-.500 record.

Devin Booker, Phoenix Suns

Here’s why: Devin Booker gets buckets like few in the NBA are capable of doing. Making his scoring all the more impressive is that he gets little if any consistent support. And that’s not likely to change anytime soon. Last season, he averaged 24.9 points per game which ranked 10th in the NBA. More significant than the numbers, was the fact that it was the highest scoring average in the league for a player whose team failed to make the playoffs.

Kevin Love, Cleveland Cavaliers

Here’s why: The good news is that the Cavs’ roster isn’t nearly as depleted as it was the last time LeBron James came and left. But this team has the feel of those not-so-great Minnesota teams Love played for; teams that failed to get to the playoffs while Love became a double-double machine. While this team won’t sink to the absolute bottom of the NBA landscape, they will far removed from being a playoff team even as Love puts up big numbers.

Kemba Walker, Charlotte Hornets

Here's why: A two-time All-star, the Hornets have made moves in recent years that indicate Walker’s time with the franchise may be coming to an end. With our without Walker, Charlotte isn’t expected to be a factor in the playoff picture. Meanwhile, Kemba Walker remains a keeper for fantasy league owners with a career scoring average of 18.9 points while having put up at least 20 points per game each of the last three seasons.

Harrison Barnes, Dallas Mavericks

Here's why: Rookie Luka Doncic and offseason signee DeAndre Jordan will get much of the attention this year in Dallas, but folks shouldn’t act like Harrison Barnes isn’t a baller. In his two seasons with the Mavericks, he has averaged 19.2 and 18.9 points, respectively. The addition of Doncic whose strength as a playmaker is clear, and that should result in an increase in Barnes’ scoring. But even with Doncic playing well and Barnes scoring more, the Mavericks won’t make up enough ground to really enter the fray for a playoff spot this season.

Willie Cauley-Stein, Sacramento Kings

I really wanted to have D’Angelo Russell of Brooklyn in this spot, but with the emergence of Spencer Dinwiddie last season, there’s no telling exactly what we’ll see from him this season and the Nets truth be told, may scrap and fight their way into one of the last playoff spots in the East. That's not happening with the Sacramento Kings and their top scorer from a year ago, Willie Cauley-Stein. He averaged a career-high 12.8 points per game last season and will once again be among their top point producers. But even as one of their top players, the Kings are still viewed by most as a team that will struggle this season. Even as Cauley-Stein’s numbers rise, the same won't hold true for the Kings’ win total. Still, that doesn’t take away from the 25-year-old developing into a solid pro which for a Sacramento team with lots of youth and little proven talent, is a good starting block towards what will be another rough season in terms of wins and losses.

NBC SPORTS BOSTON SCHEDULE