Stevens Says It's on Him To Get Hayward and Rozier Going in Game 5
BOSTON – Brad Stevens acknowledged Tuesday afternoon that his bench hasn’t lived up to expectations during the Eastern Conference Semifinals. Stevens refused to put the blame on his players, however, and instead put it on himself.
The coach, who is widely regarded as one of the top tacticians in the NBA, said that he is the one who holds responsibility for setting his reserves up for success.
“I’m not doing a very good job with that group of getting them into their spots and giving them a chance to really soar with what they do best and make plays for other people,” Stevens said on a conference call. “I think that’s something that I’ve got to do a better job of.”
The two players who are drawing the most attention in this conversation are Gordon Hayward and Terry Rozier. Those two players combined to score only 28 combined points during the last three games, all of which were deposited into Boston’s loss column. This trend arrived after Hayward and Rozier combined to average 21.5 points per game during the regular season, and 19.5 points per game during the opening round of the Playoffs.
George Hill, Milwaukee’s backup point guard, has outscored the combination of Hayward and Rozier all on his own during the last two games by a count of 36-14. Hill has, in fact, outscored Boston’s entire bench during those two games by a count of 36-23.
Hayward's strengths are playing with the ball in his hands, getting into the teeth of the defense, and making plays for himself and his teammates. He hasn't had much success - or opportunity - in those areas thus far in the series thanks to Milwaukee's elite defense.
The same can be said for Rozier, who has not been able to capitalize on his strengths. Rozier is at his best when he is playing in transition, attacking rotating defenses off the catch, and attempting uncontested perimeter shots.
Stevens and the Celtics must find a way to unlock Hayward's and Rozier's strengths during Game 5, because there is no question about how important those players' scoring and playmaking is to the team.
Including the Playoffs, Boston is 34-11 this season when Hayward scores in double-figures. The team is 27-9 when Rozier scores in double-figures.
At the other end of the spectrum is Boston’s record when Hayward and Rozier fail to score at least 10 points. The Celtics are 15-20 this season when Hayward scores in single-digits, and 25-26 when Rozier scores in single-digits.
Clearly, the success of those two players is closely associated with the success of the team, and that trend has carried over to the Playoffs. Stevens stepped in front of his players Tuesday afternoon and put the onus on himself to draw more impactful play out of them during Game 5.
For what it’s worth, the coach has confidence that he’ll do so, and that Hayward and Rozier will respond. As Stevens said Tuesday, “I think that they’ll both play well tomorrow.”
If Stevens’ forecast is correct, the Boston Celtics might just push their backs off of the proverbial wall during Game 5, and TD Garden might just play host to Game 6 Friday night.