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.
POINTS OFF TURNOVERS
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.
POINTS IN THE PAINT
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.
DEFENDING THE MID-RANGE SHOT
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.
HOME, SWEET HOME VS. ROAD WARRIORS
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.
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