With Kyrie Irving (knee) out, the Boston Celtics will turn to … Shane Larkin?
“Just go out there, be aggressive, do what I’ve done all season,” Larkin told reporters prior to tonight’s tip-off. “Pick up defensively, impact the ball and be aggressive; no different.”
It’s a pretty stark transition from being a seldom-used reserve to replacing a five-time All-star like Irving in the starting lineup.
“You never know what coach is going to do,” Larkin said. “I’ve been ready all year for whatever situation’s thrown at me, so it’s just another situation. I have to go out and play aggressive and I’ll be fine.”
While Larkin has shown he can be a positive contributor for the Celtics, the move appears to be made in part because of the success of Boston’s second unit recently.
In Boston’s 123-120 loss at Houston on Saturday, the Celtics’ bench scored a season-high 67 points.
Since the All-Star break, Boston’s bench has been among the league’s highest scoring second units.
Before the All-Star break, Boston’s bench ranked 23rd in the NBA in bench scoring (32.1). Since returning from the break, Boston’s second unit has averaged a league-best 56.2 points.
And Marcus Smart and Terry Rozier, the two expected candidates to fill in for Irving, have been key performers with Boston’s second unit.
“Bringing them off the bench together has been effective,” Stevens said.
Larkin has appeared in 40 games this season, averaging 3.4 points, 1.2 rebounds and 1.1 assists per game.
Tonight will be Larkin’s first start as a Celtic, and first start in an NBA game since April 13, 2016 when he played for the Brooklyn Nets and they played the Toronto Raptors.