Rozier Ready to Step Up, Help Fill Smart’s Void in First Round

BOSTON – Terry Rozier’s mindset shifted Wednesday evening when the news broke that Marcus Smart would be missing the first four to six weeks of the postseason due to an oblique injury. At that moment, the fourth-year guard knew that he would be one of the players whom the Celtics would be counting upon to help fill Smart’s void during their first-round series against the Indiana Pacers, so he began to mentally prepare himself for the task at hand.

“It’s tough, especially with a guy like Marcus and his presence, the way he changes the game,” Rozier said Thursday morning ahead of practice at the team’s training facility. “It’s tough seeing it, but I feel like I’m more important to the series now and I’m more needed. Obviously, I’m going to have to step up and I’m gonna be ready for it.”

Smart suffered the injury April 7 when he collided with Orlando Magic center Nikola Vucevic under the basket at TD Garden. He shook off the initial discomfort and continued to play, but on the very next possession, he hit the floor writhing in pain.

Initially, it was believed that Smart would not miss much time if any at all.

“I didn’t think he was going to miss any games because of how tough Smart is,” Rozier said looking back.

However, an MRI later revealed that Smart had suffered an avulsion of his left oblique, which could take significant time to heal.

Entering the Playoffs without a key rotation player is nothing new for Boston. It went through the entirety of last year’s postseason without both Gordon Hayward and Kyrie Irving. Rozier was one of many players who stepped up to help fill those holes, as he averaged 16.5 points, 5.3 rebounds and 5.7 assists over 19 playoff games.

This scenario, however, is a bit different because of the last-minute nature of Smart’s injury.

“Last year, we knew what the situation was,” said Rozier, whose role has been more limited this season due to the team’s immense depth. “Gordon got hurt early in the first game of the season last year and Kyrie was hurt with plenty of games to go in the regular season, so we knew going into the Playoffs what it was. This year, it kind of hit all of us.”

And all of them – not just Rozier – will have to step up.

“It’s not just going to be one guy, but I’m pretty sure we’ll figure out how,” said Rozier. “Coach will have a game plan, we just gotta follow it.”

Brad Stevens agrees that not one player can completely fill Smart’s void and he also doesn’t want anyone to change the way they play to help make up for his absence.

“I think we want everybody to play within what we’re trying to do to their individual strengths,” he said. “So that doesn’t change rotations, I just think ultimately, whoever is playing together needs to focus on what their jobs are, control what they can control, and that’s that. Nobody’s going to be Marcus Smart. We don’t expect anybody to be Marcus Smart. We didn’t expect anybody to be Kyrie Irving last year. They just have to do what they do best and focus on what we need to do.”

Rozier is fully on board with that mindset.

“I’m going to go out there and play my game,” he said. “I’m not going to try to imitate nobody else or be somebody that I’m not. It’s tough making up for a guy like Smart, the things he’s capable of doing out there, but we’ve got to move on, we’ve got to figure out a way.”

Rozier has been in a similar situation before and knows exactly what it takes to help fill a significant void in the Playoffs. Now, he’s ready to do it again.

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