Celtics

Rozier good at getting it started for Celtics

Rozier good at getting it started for Celtics

BOSTON – Following the Celtics' 97-94 win at Utah on Wednesday, Shane Larkin and Terry Rozier did their postgame interview together.

It was a fitting image when you consider the impact of losing Kyrie Irving (left knee) for the remainder of the regular season and how the combined efforts of Larkin and Rozier have helped the Celtics get by to the tune of five consecutive wins.

Their play will once again be front-and-center tonight when the Celtics host the East-leading Toronto Raptors.

Boston (52-23) comes in trailing the Raptors (55-20) by three games for the top spot in the Eastern Conference.

For the Celtics to keep winning, they will need many to step up – that includes Larkin and Rozier.

Rozier will be tasked with doing it as a starter, a role the third-year guard seems quite comfortable in.

With the first unit, Rozier is averaging 18.4 points, 6.6 rebounds and 4.8 assists per game.

Although Rozier only has 11 starts in the NBA, there are only a handful of players who have put up numbers as good as Rozier this season.

That list includes Cleveland's LeBron James, Milwaukee's Giannis Antetokounmpo, Golden State's Kevin Durant, Oklahoma City's Russell Westbrook, New Orleans' DeMarcus Cousins and Blake Griffin of Detroit.  

Rozier only had 13 points against the Jazz, but he scored 11 of those in the fourth quarter.

“I just got it going,” Rozier said. “I was just more happy that we stayed in the game and we fought the whole game. I didn't really care about the individual stats. I was over there cheering and we fought the whole game.”

Larkin added, “We're a bunch of fighters on this team. We play together. Whenever somebody goes down, it's next man up mentality."

Here are five under-the-radar storylines to keep an eye on in tonight as the top two teams in the Eastern Conference meet:

BACKUP POWER

Strong bench play has been a critical component of both Boston and Toronto this season. Boston comes into tonight’s game averaging 41.1 points off the bench which ranks 10th in the league since the All-Star break. The Raptors have been even better with an average of 46.2 bench points per game, which trails only the Miami Heat (48.8)

50-50-50 CLUB

The Raptors have won 50 or more games for the third straight season. On the surface that may not seem like that a big deal, but it really is. In the franchise’s previous 20 years of existence, the team had never won more than 49 games in a season.

HOME IMPROVEMENT


Boston has been among the top teams in the Eastern Conference and will have home-court advantage, but...is it really an advantage? Lately, the Celtics have struggled to find victories in front of the TD Garden faithful. Since Dec. 15, Boston is 11-11 at home, which includes them losing five of their last eight. For the season, Boston's 24-13 record at home ranks 12th in the NBA. 

GREEN LIGHT SHOOTING


Boston’s success on its recent Western trip was fueled by putting together some historical shooting performances. In the Celtics’ past four games, they've made at least 10 three-pointers while shooting at least 48 percent from 3-point range. They join this season’s Utah Jazz team as the only teams in NBA history to achieve those benchmarks for shooting, in four consecutive games.

THE (UNEXPECTED) CLOSERS


One of the most talked-about storylines surrounding the Celtics this season has been how injuries have led to some seldom-used players now finding themselves in different, more prominent roles. This has certainly been the Celtics way of late. In their past six games, the team’s leaders in minutes played in the fourth quarter are Shane Larkin (52) and Semi Ojeleye (47).

NBC SPORTS BOSTON SCHEDULE

After Ben Simmons' extension, the Sixers are in a familiar place the Celtics were a year ago

After Ben Simmons' extension, the Sixers are in a familiar place the Celtics were a year ago

BOSTON -- So Philly went out and got Al Horford this summer, bolstering its title aspirations for the present. And now the Sixers have reportedly just cut another fat check -  a five-year, $170 million dollar one - to Ben Simmons which on the surface strengthens their core for a basketball eternity like, you know, the next three or four years. 

In looking at their core of Joel Embiid, Tobias Harris and now Simmons all signed to deals that’ll last through the 2023 season, there’s no question they’ll be in the conversation as the team to beat in the East. 

And as you start to look at their success being fueled in large part by their young core, you look over at Boston’s youth movement and … the optimism isn’t nearly as bright. 

Jayson Tatum remains the one member of the Celtics’ youth group who has shown flashes of having all-star makeup. You love what Jaylen Brown does most nights, and how he has shown progress as a player every year he has been in the NBA. 

But an All-Star in the making? 

Probably not. 

And we won’t even get into Robert Williams III whose promise ranges from being a starter to not playing at all. 

The rookies they drafted are all nice players.

But high impact players in the NBA?

Not really.

It all adds up to a Celtics team that when you talk about youthful talent, is not on the same level as the Sixers whose young core of Embiid, Harris and Simmons are all either All-Stars or in the case of Harris, a player with All-Star caliber talent. 

Boston’s hopes of remaining in the conversation for years to come in the East will hinge on more than just the development of its young players. Even more invaluable will be Danny Ainge’s ability to wheel and deal his way to building another title contender via trades and free agency. 

The addition of Kemba Walker who signed a four-year, $141 million deal certainly helps. The same could be said for Gordon Hayward bouncing back and playing more like last-year-in-Utah Gordon Hayward versus up-and-down, on-the-mend Gordon Hayward we saw last season. 

The reality is this. 

The Sixers have built a team that is poised to compete both in the present and future, but Celtics fans know all too well how quickly that can all come crashing down in a hurry. 

First Gordon Hayward got hurt, followed by the team’s up and down start. Kyrie Irving struggled to be the kind of leader this team needed, only to leave this summer for Brooklyn and soon after, so did Al Horford for Philly. 

I give the Sixers credit for doing all the things a franchise needs to do to best position themselves for long-term success. 

But even with Simmons locked into a long-term deal, how long will it be before rumors start to be floated that Simmons is making goo-goo eyes at playing with the Los Angeles Lakers and LeBron James and Anthony Davis? 

The fact that Simmons has signed a long-term deal means nothing; not in this NBA era when players with years - plural not singular - left on their contracts all but force a trade to the team of their choice if they don’t like the team they’re on as much. 

There are a series of other plausible factors that could torpedo the efforts Philly has made to insulate itself from the teams coming at them both now and in the future, similar to what the Celtics just experienced. 

And that’s why while the rest of the East should definitely be on guard for the Sixers building themselves into a potent squad, by no means should their core group be deemed an insurmountable unit that’s impervious to change. 

They have a good team, one that on paper is clearly better than Boston is right now in terms of their overall unit and their youthful core. 

But things change in a hurry in the NBA, where teams built upon talented youth are suddenly torn down by too many egos and not enough shine to go around. 

We’ll see if the Sixers become the latest to succumb to that, or if their young core of Embiid, Harris and Simmons will lead them into an era where that youth comes of age in time to win a title. 

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Celtics snubbed from All-NBA Summer League teams

Celtics snubbed from All-NBA Summer League teams

Even though Celtics fans rejoiced in every second of Tacko Fall, Carsen Edwards, Grant Williams and Robert Williams III action in July, no Boston Celtics player made the All-NBA Summer League first or second teams. 

The NBA announced the first and second team honors on Monday afternoon, which failed to recognize the Summer C's, who earned the top seed in the postseason before losing to the Grizzlies in the quarterfinals. 

Edwards, Boston's second-round pick out of Purdue, arguably had the strongest case for All-Summer League recognition. Edwards averaged 19.4 points on 48% shooting in 23.4 minutes per game. Even though he didn't make an All-Summer League team, Edwards earned himself a nice rookie contract. 

In the frontcourt, Williams III nearly averaged a double-double and Grant Williams provided an all-around boost on both ends of the court.  

The Celtics are apparently confused about the NBA's selection process, at least according to their official Twitter account. 

twitter.com/celtics/status/1150875806312390657

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