TORONTO – When the season began, getting steady minutes off the bench was a pretty big deal for Terry Rozier.
It would serve as tangible proof that the long hours put in working on his game, were paying off.
But as we’ve seen, with an increased role comes increased responsibility to not just show up and play, but play well.
Since injuries forced Rozier into the starting lineup, we have seen him shine on almost a nightly basis.
But like any NBA regular, he’s bound to have nights when frankly, him playing well is just not meant to be.
That was what we saw on Wednesday night, a game in which Rozier could never get into any kind of rhythm and that would play a factor in Boston’s 96-78 loss at Toronto.
Rozier, who returned to the lineup after missing Tuesday’s loss at Milwaukee due to a left ankle sprain injury, had just two points while missing all but one of his nine shot attempts.
The 6-foot-2 guard was quick to clarify that the left ankle sprain that sidelined him for the Bucks game, was not a factor in his struggles on Wednesday against the Raptors.
“My foot didn’t bother me,” Rozier told reporters after the loss. “It may have looked like it bothered me but it didn’t bother me.”
Rozier credits Toronto’s defense for playing a good game, but acknowledged there were some things the Celtics did that aided in the team’s overall struggles, too.
“We weren’t moving the ball, including myself,” Rozier said. “It’s tough to beat a great team like that when you’re not moving the ball.”
A big factor of Toronto’s win was the play of the Raptors' second unit, which has been among the highest-scoring benches in the NBA this season.
Toronto came into Wednesday’s game averaging 41.8 points per game off the bench, which ranked fourth in the NBA.
Against the Celtics, they were slightly better than average in finishing with 44 total points.
But it was their defense in the second quarter that would prove pivotal in the win over Boston that moves the Raptors one game away from clinching the top spot in the Eastern Conference playoffs.
“That’s the way you want to play,” said Toronto backup guard Fred VanVleet. “It doesn’t happen all the time, obviously that’s rhythm of the game, obviously guys play a little big harder when the shots going in. It’s just natural basketball thing but I think anytime we can start off the game with our defensive intensity and let that fuel our offense, steals, blocked shots, playing in transition, fast breaks … it’s just a much easier game for us.”
And for most of the time Rozier has been a starter, he looked quite comfortable in the role as the team’s lead guard, a role that won’t be changing anytime soon.
Celtics coach Brad Stevens has already indicated that Boston will begin the playoffs without Kyrie Irving, who is scheduled to begin basketball-related activities on April 14 at the earliest, which would either be the day of Boston’s first game of the playoffs or the day before its first playoff game.
Because of that, the expectation is that Boston will continue to lean heavily on Rozier.
His mindset and approach to these last four games and the playoffs right around the corner, is simple.
“Just be aggressive and try to lead this team as much as I can,” Rozier said. “There’s no pressure at all; I don’t feel (any) pressure.”