Celtics

Rozier and bench again lead way as Celtics top T'Wolves, 91-84

Rozier and bench again lead way as Celtics top T'Wolves, 91-84

BOSTON – Kyrie Irving remains the headliner when it comes to the Celtics this season.

But lately, it has been the C's supporting cast – Terry Rozier specifically - that has taken center stage.

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Friday night was yet another impressive outing as Boston pulled away with a bench-led, fourth-quarter surge that paved the way for a 91-84 win over Minnesota at TD Garden.

And while there were plenty of backups ballin’ out for the Celtics (32-10, the play of Rozier once again stood out.

After leading all scorers with 20 points in the win over Cleveland on Wednesday, he was even more impressive on Friday night with a near double-double of 14 points and nine rebounds in 22 minutes.

Boston also got a strong bench game from Marcus Smart, who led most of the Celtics in scoring most of the night before finishing with a team-high 18 points.

As a unit, they outscored their Minnesota backup brethren, 42-20. 

And while Irving’s teammates off the bench were instrumental in the victory, the four-time All-Star had his usual moments in which he also dominated as he finished with a near triple-double of 16 points to go with nine rebounds and eight assists.

As for the Timberwolves, Karl-Anthony Towns was as dominant a player as the Celtics have faced this season. He led Minnesota (24-16) with 25 points and 23 rebounds.

Timberwolves All-Star Jimmy Butler had 14 points and six assists for Minnesota which has now lost two in a row after winning seven of its previous eight games.

The way both teams shot the ball in the second half was significantly better than the frigid shooting display put on by both teams at the start of the game.

The easy explanation for the horrific shooting by both teams was to blame it on Mother Nature and the cold temps in Boston that maybe just maybe, factored into such cold shooting by both teams.

At the half, Boston held a slim 41-38 lead in large part by limiting the Timberwolves to 32.6 percent shooting.

But the Celtics weren’t much better, connecting on a not-so-great 39.1 percent of their shot attempts.

The third quarter was better for both teams in terms of shooting the ball.

Boston seemingly spread the offensive love around while Minnesota seemed to focus more on getting the ball into Butler as much as possible when he was matched up against Irving.

And unlike most games when teams try to do that, Irving was not able to effectively go back at the Timberwolves, who limited him to a rough shooting night most of the quarter.

But Irving had the last laugh, finishing the quarter with a drive that put the Celtics up 66-62 going into the fourth quarter.

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Danny Ainge has established a good track record of getting the best player available

Danny Ainge has established a good track record of getting the best player available

The last couple of years have answered the question of whether Danny Ainge can draft. When making his first choice in 2016 and 2017, he was higher on his guy than most. In both cases, he was right. 

No major publication considered Jayson Tatum the best player last year; Ainge would have taken him No. 1 but was able to trade down because the Sixers were trading up for Markelle Fultz and the Lakers for some reason wanted to sign up for the Lonzo Ball life.

Jaylen Brown at No. 3 in 2016? You remember the boos, and you can understand why they happened. Fans were confused. If they'd been checking nbadraft.net like we all did, they expected him to be the ninth pick. 

Yet in both cases, Ainge and Co. were clearly right. Holding a high pick with no consensus option awaiting him, they wound up with the best player available. 

What's more impressive is that they've also done it later in the draft, and the further down the board you go to make your first pick, the easier it is to take a guy who won't amount to anything, let alone prove to be the best possible selection. 

That's what the Celtics did three years ago with Terry Rozier at No. 16. At the time, Bleacher Report Senior NBA writer Howard Beck deemed that selection the "biggest reach" of the draft; at the very least, the Celtics were heavily criticized for taking him where they did.

Go look at that draft and the players who were selected after Rozier. Would you rather any of those guys over Rozier? Maybe Josh Richardson? Maybe? Probably not, though? 

Now, here's where we need to note that the 2015 draft, for as good as it looks now for the Celtics, could have greatly derailed what's been an excellent rebuild. As the legend goes, Ainge intended to trade a whole lot to get from No. 16 to No. 9 in order to select Justise Winslow, who just had a worse third NBA season than Rozier. 

How badly did Ainge want to move up? According to ESPN's Chris Forsberg that summer, Ainge offered Charlotte "as many as six draft picks, including four potential first-round selections," only to have the deal rejected. Keep in mind that the Celtics still had three Brooklyn picks (which would turn into Brown, Tatum and Kyrie Irving) at that point. 

At any rate, the basketball gods saved Ainge from himself and he followed it up by making the right selection. The latter has happened three straight years now. 

Before that, the Celtics looked more human at the draft. Using 2010 as the cutoff (they didn't have a first-round pick in 2009, so 2010 seemed like a good place to keep it semi-recent), the Celtics have had their fair share of not-quite-misses-but-not-quite-home-runs. The Marcus Smart pick (No. 6 overall in 2014) could have been better spent on Dario Saric. Jared Sullinger (21st overall in 2012) could have instead been Draymond Green (No. 35). Three picks after the Celtics took JaJuan Johnson at 27 (via New Jersey), the Bulls took Jimmy Butler.

Of course, there's no more devastating "what if?" to play than looking back at 2013, when the Celtics got Kelly Olynyk at No. 13 (via Dallas), only to later learn they'd passed on the best player in that draft (Giannis Antetokounmpo). 

Yet that three-year run on not getting the best player has been sandwiched by stronger drafting. In 2010, the C's' selection over Avery Bradley at No. 19 proved to be the best pick they could have made. 

The Celtics are slotted to pick at No. 27 Thursday, a spot that promises very little, though they've got more than enough ammunition to move up. Even if they get whoever proves to be the best NBA player of the guys on the board, there's no promise that said player will have much of an NBA career. Their last three top picks have shown that if they do jump up, they'll get the right guy. 

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NBC Sports Boston Breakfast Pod: What's the ideal draft night for the Celtics?

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NBC Sports Boston Breakfast Pod: What's the ideal draft night for the Celtics?

1:26 - With the NBA Draft finally here, it’s still a mystery exactly what Danny Ainge's Celtics are going to do, whether it’s trade up or stand pat with the 27th overall pick. A. Sherrod Blakely reveals his pipe dream for the draft as well as his top five players the C’s could realistically end up taking at 27.

6:27 - Tom Curran, Michael Holley and Danielle Trotta debate if Eric Decker would be a good fit in New England after the veteran receiver said that he’d love to play for the Patriots.

9:26 - We went to you the fans in a Twitter poll to get the scoop on who is the most entertaining team in Boston and Tom Curran and Michael Holley discuss the results.

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