addByline("Marc D'Amico", "Celtics.com", "Marc_DAmico");
SALT LAKE CITY – Terry Rozier dealt the San Antonio Spurs a dose of payback Thursday night – payback that was a year in the making.
Rozier canned a dramatic, game-winning 3-pointer as he was fouled during the final seconds of Thursday’s matchup. Rozier’s basket put Boston on top 87-86 with 1.8 seconds left on the clock, and though he missed the ensuing free throw, the Celtics grabbed the loose ball and dribbled out the clock for the win.
“I was kind of open for a split second,” Rozier said as he recalled the final play, which was actually drawn up for James Young. “So I called [Guerschon Yabusele’s] name. He got me the ball, and I threw up a prayer… and got the win.”
Thanks to Rozier’s heroics, the Celtics exit Salt Lake City with a perfect 3-0 record. They also were able to exact revenge on the team that derailed Boston’s attempt at a Summer League title last July in Las Vegas.
Boston won its first four games last summer in Vegas before taking on the Spurs in the quarterfinals of the playoffs. Rozier remembers exactly how that game went down during crunch time.
“If you remember last year, I hit a big [3-pointer] in the corner (to tie the game with 2.5 seconds left),” he recollected, “then they came down and hit a running floater to win the game.”
Rozier, who’s a very competitive player, had that memory at the forefront of his mind when the ball hit his hands during the final seconds Thursday night.
“I was just like, ‘I’ve got to knock this down,’” he said.
And he did.
Rozier finished the contest as Boston’s leading scorer (23 points), rebounder (seven rebounds) and assist man (six assists). He shot 8-for-15 from the field and 6-of-7 from the free-throw line. The game-winner accounted for his only made 3-pointer of the night.
Micah Shrewsberry, who will be replaced by Jamie Young as Boston’s Summer League head coach in Las Vegas, credited Rozier for stepping up in multiple ways when his team needed him most.
““[Terry’s composure has been] really big, and we’ve leaned on him,” Shrewsberry said. “With R.J. (Hunter) and Jaylen (Brown) not playing (the last two games), he’s really had to take on a leadership role, even more, but also a bigger scoring role.”
Over the course of three games in Salt Lake City, Rozier scored a team-best average of 19.0 points per game. He also averaged 6.3 rebounds and 5.0 assists per game.
Without Rozier’s heroics, the Celtics were likely to suffer a gut-wrenching loss at the hands of the Spurs. Boston did not trail the entire game until Alex Kirk put home a reverse layup at the 5:35 mark of the fourth quarter to give San Antonio a 73-72 lead.
The contest remained a one-possession game until the final two minutes, when the Spurs eventually pulled ahead 86-80 with 1:10 left on the clock. That’s when Rozier took over.
The second-year guard scored on a driving layup with 51.1 seconds left on the clock, then added another layup with 28.8 seconds remaining to slice San Antonio’s lead down to two. The Spurs called for a timeout but failed to score on their ensuing possession.
Boston then called a timeout of its own to draw up a potential game-winning play, and as we now know, that play did not work to success. Yabusele took an inbound pass from Young at the extended elbow but was unable to connect with Young as the sharpshooter drifted to the right corner.
Rozier intelligently drifted out to the right wing after setting a brush screen for Young. Yabusele found him, passed him the ball, and the rest is history.
Boston is the only team that will exit Salt Lake City with a perfect 3-0 record. Impressively, it accumulated three wins without the services of Hunter and Brown for the last two games, and without Jordan Mickey for all three games.
Those three players, all of whom are likely starters for this team, could very well be back in action when the Celtics open up play in the Vegas at 6 p.m. Saturday evening against the Chicago Bulls.