Rozier Logs Historic Performance in First NBA Start

BOSTON – Terry Rozier appeared in 164 regular-season games before finally earning his first career start Wednesday night, but it was more than worth the wait.

With Kyrie Irving, Marcus Smart and Shane Larkin all sidelined with various injuries, Rozier took the reigns as the Boston Celtics’ starting point guard for the first time. The third-year guard delivered with his first career triple-double performance, all while leading his team to a blowout win over the rival New York Knicks.

Rozier logged 17 points, 11 rebounds and a career-high 10 assists during 33 minutes of play, as he helped pave the way for a 103-73 Celtics win. He joined Tony Wroten as the only other NBA player to log a triple-double in his first career start since the 1970-71 season when the NBA began listing starters in box scores.

“That was the plan,” Rozier joked after the game. “It just worked out perfect for me. I got to knock down shots at the beginning of the game, hit the open man, I’m always going to get in there and rebound. It was just a great night.”

Rozier was told by Brad Stevens Wednesday morning that he’d likely be starting later that night and would also be heavily relied upon due to the abundance of backcourt injuries the C’s were facing. From that point forward, Rozier began hyping himself up for his big moment.

“It’s been on my mind all day,” reflected Rozier, “just to be aggressive from the start.”

How does scoring 11 points during the first six minutes sound for an aggressive start?

Rozier opened the game by canning three 3-pointers for an 11-point first-quarter eruption. The second quarter was when he dominated the boards, as he corralled five rebounds, all on the defensive end. Then in the second half, he became a distributer, dishing out four assists during both the third and fourth quarters. He also chipped in two steals and a career-high-tying two blocks along the way, while also logging a career-best plus-32 rating.

“Terry Rozier, on both sides of the ball, was tremendous,” said Marcus Morris, who scored a game-high 20 points before departing with a bruised left hip. “He’s one of our toughest competitors, and I think he changed the game with his intensity and moving the ball from side to side.”

A game-changing performance was exactly what Stevens was hoping for out of Rozier, since the team was almost completely depleted of its ball handlers.

“When I got the update on Shane (Larkin’s knee before the game), I was pretty sure Terry would play 48 minutes,” Stevens deadpanned. “But I thought he played great. He just made the right basketball play. He did a couple of things that he hasn’t done before with regard to the lob and a couple of the looks that he made really quickly. He’s done them before, but he made them very, very consistently tonight. And then obviously he’s always good coming off those screens and shooting and scoring. So it was good to see him play well.”

Starting backcourt mate Jaylen Brown said Rozier’s triple-double was a well-deserved reward considering the extraordinary work ethic that he displays on a daily basis.

“He’s been working his butt off all year, and this is the first time he’s gotten the opportunity to start and he puts up a triple-double,” said Brown. “That’s just a true testament to his hard work and the dedication he puts on his craft.”

The Celtics don’t know yet if they’ll have to rely on Rozier to start again Friday night when they host the Atlanta Hawks. Irving’s status remains up in the air for that matchup, but if he’s unable to play through his right quad contusion, his backup will gladly take on the challenge of filling his void once again.

“If he ain’t playing, I’m here for him,” Rozier said with an eager grin. “I’ve got his back.”

That surely was the case Wednesday night, as Rozier played the game of his life while spearheading the most lopsided win of the Celtics’ season.