Rozier takes advantage of opportunity provided by Irving's absence

NBC Sports Boston illustration

Rozier takes advantage of opportunity provided by Irving's absence

Terry Rozier is living on borrowed time. 
He knows this.
As soon as Kyrie Irving’s right quadriceps bruise heals, possibly as early as tonight against Toronto, Rozier will be back to coming off the Celtics bench. 
But in the three games Rozier has been in the starting lineup, the third-year guard has opened the eyes of many to his potential. 
That said, how will he handle what’s sure to be a reduced upon Irving’s return?
“I’m going to come off the bench and be aggressive,” Rozier said.
That’s always been a focus for Rozier. 
But it’s different now that he's had a taste of what it’s like to have the responsibility of carrying the team for long stretches, as was the case at times during the last three games without Irving. 
 “The man above gave me a chance to start, just to see how aggressive I can be,” said Rozier who averaged 19.7 points, 5.7 assists and 8 rebounds in his three games as a starter. “No matter if I come off the bench or not, I’m going to stay with that aggression that I have.
He added: “This was the perfect situation for me. I needed this to happen.”
Here are five under-the-radar story lines to watch heading into tonight’s game between the Boston Celtics and the Toronto Raptors. 



Al Horford extending his range in recent years has made him one of the best stretch bigs in the NBA. Toronto’s Jonas Valanciunas is the latest attempting to follow suit as an inside-outside scoring big man. He comes into tonight’s game having made at least one 3-pointer in each of Toronto’s last three games, a first for him. Although a small sample size, Valanciunas is shooting 47.1 percent (16-for-34) from 3-point range this season.







One of the keys to Toronto’s high-powered offense, is how they’re capable of generating points in transition. They come into tonight’s game averaging 18.4 points per game off turnovers which ranks fourth in the NBA. And the Celtics do a good job of getting back defensively, which has limited their opponent’s transition game. Boston allows 15.0 points scored off turnovers per game, which ranks seventh in the league.


Keeping Toronto’s bigs and penetrating guards out of the paint will be difficult, but far from impossible for the Boston Celtics. Toronto averages 48.4 points in the paint this season which ranks fourth in the NBA. Meanwhile, Boston’s defense has limited teams to 42.8 points in the paint per game which ranks as the eighth-fewest amount of points allowed in the paint per game this season.


DeMar DeRozan’s mid-range game is arguably the best in the NBA. But by no means is he the only Raptor player that Boston has to be concerned with tonight. As a team, Toronto is shooting 41.8 percent on mid-range shots according to NBA.com, which ranks eighth in the NBA. The Celtics defensively are one of the best at defending mid-range shots, with opponents shooting just 36.9 percent against them (fourth in the NBA). Not only do the C's do a good job of contesting mid-range shots, but they also have shown the ability to make them at a relatively high clip, too. Boston is shooting 42.9 percent on mid-range shots this year, which ranks fourth in the NBA. And Toronto’s defense, while solid overall, has struggled when it comes to defending mid-range shots. Teams are shooting 41.9 percent against them on mid-range attempts which ranks 25th in the league. 



One of the subplots to tonight’s game involves a Celtics team that’s seemingly at their best on the road, against a Toronto team that protects its home turf better than any team in the NBA. Only Golden State (22-6 away from Oracle Arena) has a better record than the Celtics’ 18-7 mark. Meanwhile, Toronto boasts a league-best 21-4 record at the Air Canada Centre this season.



No time to dwell on it, Game 7 awaits

No time to dwell on it, Game 7 awaits

CLEVELAND – The Celtics have been perfect at home in the playoffs and with a Game 7 win on Sunday, they would set an NBA record for consecutive home wins in the postseason with 11.

It would also improve their record to 38-0 in series in which they open with a pair of wins.

Still, as they went about making this improbable journey to where they are a win away from a trip to the NBA Finals, history has never been a motivating factor.

And with where they are now in the grand scheme of things, it becomes even less of a motivating factor.

“At the end of the day, you have to make your own history,” said Jaylen Brown. “We have to come out and do what we have to do. People can say what they want. Two teams have to come out and play.”

That stay-in-the-moment mindset has served them well all season and becomes even more important following a Game 6 loss Friday night, a game in which the Celtics did a lot of what they were intending to do in order to give themselves a shot at winning.

But the game ultimately came down to the C's going through one of its scoring lulls, getting behind by double digits and not making that one shot or getting that clutch defensive stop to swing the momentum in their favor.

There’s no time to dwell on that, not with a Game 7 matchup on the horizon.

“It’s over with now,” Brown said. “We can’t afford to think in the past, ‘oh we should have won.’ It’s over with. Game 7 at home in the Garden; great atmosphere, great environment, great stage. Come out and play some great basketball, high energy and let’s see who comes out on top.”

Here are five takeaways from Boston’s 109-99 Game 6 loss to the Cavs:


He had 15 points on 7-for-13 shooting which is a pretty good night for most players. But what really stood out was the fact that Tatum, arguably Boston’s best player at creating his own shot off the dribble, did not take a single free throw. The reason was two-fold: the ball didn’t find its way into his hands enough and when it did, opportunities to get to the rim and attack were few and far between.


Marcus Morris has been tasked with being one of the primary defenders against LeBron James, knowing full well he – or any NBA player for that matter – can only hope to slow him down. Morris has not done as well of late in limiting James and to make matters worse, he has struggled to impact the game offensively. In Game 6, he was 3-for-10 shooting with a number of the misses being attempts at the rim or relatively open perimeter looks. Of all the Celtics, Morris will likely benefit the most when it comes to being at home.


LeBron James (46 points, 11 rebounds, nine assists) was dominant as ever, but it was the Cavaliers role players that really won this game for Cleveland. George Hill had 20 points. Jeff Green and Larry Nance Jr. came off the bench to score 14 and 10 points, respectively. Kyle Korver hit a couple 3’s and for the most part, did a solid job defensively. Limiting their impact will be among the chief goals for the Celtics heading into Sunday’s Game 7 matchup.


They’re called free throws but when you miss too many of them, there’s often a high cost to be paid. The Celtics found that out in Game 6. While the Cavs took two more free throws (22) than the Celtics (20), Boston wound up making seven fewer free throws courtesy of them shooting a woeful 55 percent (11-for-20) from the line while the Cavs were 18-for-22. Teams tend to shoot better from the line at home, a trend Boston certainly hopes will continue for at least one more game.


After a collision with Jayson Tatum in the first quarter, Love (concussion testing) was unable to return for Game 6, and at this point, he is questionable at best for Game 7. Jeff Green and Larry Nance Jr. picked up the minutes left by Love’s absence and if Love doesn’t play in Game 7 those two will likely gobble up most of those 30-plus minutes that would have gone to Love. That could lead to Boston making another lineup change with Marcus Morris back with the first unit in place of Aron Baynes to better match up with Cleveland.


NBC Sports Boston Breakfast Pod: It all comes down to Game 7 at the Garden

NBC Sports Boston Photo

NBC Sports Boston Breakfast Pod: It all comes down to Game 7 at the Garden

1:33 - Tommy Heinsohn, Mike Gorman and Brian Scalabrine break down the Cavaliers' Game 6 win over the Celtics to force a Game 7. Tommy Heinsohn also tips his cap to what LeBron was able to do in a do or die Game 6.

7:56 - A. Sherrod Blakely and Abby Chin discuss how many minutes (46) LeBron James played in Game 6 and whether that will have an impact on the Cavaliers in Game 7 on Sunday.

9:44 - Jared Carrabis joins Mike Giardi to give his take on the Red Sox designating Hanley Ramirez for assignment.