Young C's Aid IT with Unsung Efforts in Game 2
BOSTON – Isaiah Thomas was the hero of Game 2, but Brad Stevens didn’t forget to sing for Boston’s unsung heroes.
Terry Rozier and Jaylen Brown combined for 16 points – 37 fewer than Thomas’ career-high 53 – but they stood as pillars of Boston’s 129-119 victory Tuesday night over the visiting Washington Wizards.
They combine for only three seasons of NBA experience, two for Rozier, one for Brown. Tuesday night, however, they performed like seasoned vets.
Rozier, a 6-foot-2 guard, stood tall during 25-plus minutes of non-stop effort on the court. He soared for rebounds, six of them to be exact. He defended at an incredible level. He found teammates for four big buckets. But most importantly, he made some big buckets of his own.
None was bigger than his 3-pointer from the right corner of the court with 1:38 left in regulation.
Rozier was left unguarded along the sideline and Thomas found him with a drive-and-kick dish. Rozier caught the pass and wound up for his shot without hesitation with his team trailing 110-107.
Bang. Tie ball game.
Game 2 featured many critical shots, and that was undoubtedly one of them. Boston may not have forced overtime and pulled ahead for the win without it.
That moment was the highest of highs for Rozier during his young career. Rozier flexed to the crowd as Washington called for a timeout, and the guard was greeted by a bench full of celebration when he arrived at Boston’s sideline.
As high as that moment was, it was only one flash of a rollercoaster season that has featured nine DNPs – including one during the Playoffs – and 18 double-digit scoring efforts. Those swings, in Stevens’ mind, helped to prepare Rozier for his biggest moments Tuesday night.
“I think that he’s a young player, so he’s going to have ups and downs, and sometimes we don’t look at ups and downs as a good thing, but they are,” Stevens said after the win, during a rare moment of non-Thomas discussion. “It’s good to have ups and downs; it’s good to have to go through some tough times just as well as the good times.”
Brown can call “preach” to that comment, as he has hit even steeper highs and deeper lows than Rozier has this season.
Brown, the No. 3 overall pick from the 2016 NBA Draft, has seen his role shifted, molded and carved in every which way as the season has unfolded.
He started 20 games for the C’s, 14 as a small forward and six as a shooting guard, averaging 10.0 points while canning 40.4 percent of his 3-pointers.
At the other end of the spectrum, however, he has been a little-used asset that played fewer than 10 minutes on 22 occasions this season, including six straight contests leading up to Game 2.
Yet there he was Tuesday night, stepping into the line of fire to provide Boston with much-needed protection against one of the most dangerous offensive weapons in the game.
“I don’t know if I’ve seen him guard a guy of (Bradley) Beal’s caliber the way he guarded him,” an impressed Stevens commented. “He tried to make it as tough as possible. He wasn’t perfect – fouled a couple times, maybe he was late once – but he was really good.”
So was Rozier, on the very same night, during the most important game of Boston’s season to this point.
The Celtics know they’re going to receive superhuman efforts from their hero, Thomas, because that’s a regular occurrence nowadays. When the team can supplement that with impactful performances from unsung heroes such as Rozier and Brown, it becomes an absolute force, as was proven Tuesday night.