BOSTON – Filling in for Kyrie Irving, whether it’s one game or one possession, isn’t easy.
You wouldn’t know that by the way Terry Rozier stepped up in Irving’s absence.
Rozier, making his first NBA start due to Irving’s right quadriceps injury suffered against Denver on Monday, made the most of his opportunity with the first group as Boston pulled away in the second half for a 103-73 win.
Rozier tallied his first career triple-double with 17 points, 11 rebounds and 10 assists. Boston also got 20 points off the bench from Marcus Morris who left the game late in the third quarter with a left hip injury suffered when he landed on it following a breakaway dunk.
New York (23-29) was led by Enes Kanter’s double-double of 17 points and 17 rebounds, while Kristaps Porzingis had 16 points.
After a relatively close first half, the Celtics seemed focused on putting the game away as soon as possible.
Boston went to work right out the gates in the third quarter, as Jayson Tatum drove into the lane for an uncontested dunk. He would finish with 15 points.
That was just the beginning of Boston’s delivering one surge after another that the Knicks simply had no answer for.
Rozier opened the game with strong play, putting up the kind of numbers that were Kyrie Irving-like with 11 points on 4-for-7 shooting which was key to Boston leading 27-24 after the first quarter.
In the second, Boston still played with a lead but the Knicks remained a mini-run away from taking the lead themselves.
After a jumper by Porzingis cut Boston’s lead to 33-31, Boston got back-to-back baskets which included a powerful baseline dunk by Jaylen Brown over Porzingis which put Boston ahead 37-31 and immediately led to a Knicks time-out.
Boston continued to maintain control of the game, but were nowhere close to putting the Knicks into a seriously deep hole at this point of the game.
Porzingis was huge, as was Kanter who had a double-double of 10 points and 12 rebounds by halftime which ended with the Celtics ahead 50-45.
Rozier did more than just get baskets.
He made his share of hustle plays, like in the third quarter when he prevented the Knicks from scoring on a 2-on-1 break by swiping at the ball as Porzingis went into the lane for a potential lay-up only for the ball to go off Porzingis’ leg.
Two possessions, later, Rozier drained a mid-range jumper to give Boston a double-digit lead. 67-56.
Boston (37-15) continued to surge ahead for their second straight win, and third in the last four games.