Pregame Post-Ups: Larkin Set for First Start of the Season

Monday, March 5 - Celtics at Bulls

Pregame – Larkin Set for First Start of the Season

CHICAGO - When the Boston Celtics announced that Kyrie Irving would miss Monday night's game against the Chicago Bulls because of left knee soreness, it was widely believed that either Terry Rozier or Marcus Smart would take his place in the starting lineup. Instead, Brad Stevens has decided to throw a curveball by starting Shane Larkin for the first time this season.

Stevens revealed ahead of tip-off that the reasoning behind the decision actually had little to do with the makeup of the starting rotation. The coach's main concern was being able to keep the second unit intact considering how strongly that group has been playing together of late.

"The bench is playing so good that I don't want to mess with that," said Stevens. "If we start Marcus or Terry, those guys have both played with that group, but bringing them off the bench together has been very effective."

Larkin, who has missed significant time recently with a knee injury of his own, completely understood where the coach was coming from in his decision-making process.

"I think it's pretty important," Larkin said of keeping the second unit together. "Our bench has been killing it the last few games since All-Star break, and you want to keep them in rhythm. So, whatever (Coach) has to do to keep that group playing well and doing what they're doing, it's what he chose to do and I'm just ready for the opportunity."

There's also the benefit of having Larkin's intensity on the court out of the gate.

"Shane does a lot of good things for us when he's on the court," said Stevens. "He's been really good for us all year. The thing about Shane that I really like is the way he can pressure the basketball. We've talked about that and how he can help direct the tempo and change the tempo of the game."

Stevens also noted that Larkin is still facing a minutes restriction, so having him play early, when he's still loose from warm-ups, would make more sense than having him come in late when he's cold.

This will mark Larkin's first NBA start since April 13, 2016 - his final game as a Brooklyn Net. With the Celtics this season, the 5-foot-11 point guard has averaged 3.4 points per game while averaging 11.3 minutes per contest.

- Taylor Snow