Lightning Strikes: Larkin's Energetic Play Helps C's Edge Thunder
BOSTON - Marcus Morris was the hero of Boston Tuesday night, as he canned a game-winning 3-pointer to help the Celtics strike down the Oklahoma City Thunder, 100-99, at TD Garden. However, Morris never would've been in position to take that shot, nor would the C's have had a chance to win the game, had it not been for the energetic boost that Shane Larkin provided during his 25 minutes off the bench.
Larkin's all-around effort was magnificent, as he contributed 13 points, four rebounds (two on each end) and just one turnover, while serving as a primary ball-handler for much of his time on the floor.
Above all, Larkin's constantly-active style of play helped enhance Boston's pace, acting as a spark plug on both ends of the court. His lightning-quick moves and drives to the basket gave life to the Celtics' offense, while his fearless, defensive approach provided versatility on the other side of the ball.
Those types of contributions are what teammates like Morris have come to expect out of the eager, 5-foot-11 point guard.
"Shane always has energy," said Morris, who scored 21 points on the night. "He's one of those guys who stays ready for his number to be called. He's been doing that for a while, and we need guys like that. When somebody goes down, it's gotta be next man up. And he does a great job of coming out, bringing a lot of energy and picking up the pace."
Larkin has had an inconsistent role for the Celtics all season long, but coach Brad Stevens says that will change down the final stretch because of the fact that Kyrie Irving (knee) and Marcus Smart (thumb) will both be sidelined indefinitely.
It's unfortunate, of course, to have those two key contributors out, but the Celtics are lucky to have a guy like Larkin who can fill in admirably alongside Terry Rozier in the backcourt.
"Shane has been incredibly reliable in his spot opportunities, but they're no longer going to be spot opportunities," said Stevens. "This is why you prepare all year. He's a big part of our team right now, and he's going to play a lot of meaningful minutes here over the end of the regular season and into the Playoffs.
Added the coach, "Shane's going to be critical for us with Kyrie being out. He and Terry need to shoulder a ton of the load at the point."
Rozier loves the idea of sharing the backcourt load with Larkin, because he believes that playing alongside another high-energy, spunky guard like himself will help bring out the best in his game.
"Playing with a guy like Shane, he's going to make your job so easy because he's playing so fast and fearless," said Rozier. "You're either going to play just how he plays, or you can be lacking. But there's no way you want to be out there with a guy like Shane and be lacking."
The Celtics certainly weren't lacking with Larkin Tuesday night. While he was on the floor, Boston outscored the Thunder by a whopping 17 points. That just shows the impact that he had during a game that was decided by just one point.
Larkin may not have lit up the scoreboard or buried the game-winning shot, but he gave the Celtics something that was just as important: energy - a lot of it. And Boston's going to need that type of energy force to help carry it down the final stretch of the regular season and into the Playoffs.