Stevens Considers Change to Starting Lineup

NEW YORK – This has been a season of change for the Boston Celtics. That trend may continue Tuesday night.

No, the Celtics aren’t on the verge of another trade. Instead, Brad Stevens is contemplating a change to his starting lineup.

“I’m considering changing one spot but we’ll figure that out by 1:30,” Stevens said at Tuesday morning’s shootaround.

When pressed as to if that meant the return of Jared Sullinger, who came off the bench on Sunday, to the starting lineup, Stevens smiled and said, “I’ll let you know by 5:30.”

Clearly, the coach was not interested in tipping his hand. So it’s time to speculate. Outlined below are three potential changes, as well as reasons why Stevens could make one of those changes.

Marcus Smart in, Evan Turner out

This is the move many people will anticipate following Sunday’s game against the Heat. Stevens made a change to the lineup to open up the second half, inserting Marcus Smart, who tallied a career-high nine assists on the day, in place of Evan Turner. Stevens said after the game that “the one thing with Marcus is he’s going to give you juice – lots of juice.”

The question now is, do the Celtics need that juice to begin games? The numbers say yes.

Boston has scored an average of just 20.6 points on 39.0 percent shooting during the first quarter of its last 10 games. It’s starting games off slowly, which has been digging it into holes that it can’t dig out of.

Turner has been playing solid basketball but it may be time to get the rookie in there to start games. Smart’s juice could help the C’s turn things around at the start of games.

Jared Sullinger in, Tyler Zeller out

Stevens announced 90 minutes ahead of Sunday’s game that Tyler Zeller would replace Jared Sullinger in the starting lineup due to Sullinger showing up late to shootaround. Stevens stated that Sullinger was late due to traffic issues, and that the switch shouldn’t be made into a bigger deal than it really was.

Sunday’s contest marked Sullinger’s first non-start of the season, and the big man struggled while coming off of the bench. He totaled just seven points and three rebounds while logging 19 minutes. Zeller, meanwhile, excelled as a starter, notching a team-high 17 points to go with six rebounds and four assists.

Despite Zeller’s excellent play as a starter, it would make a lot of sense to get Sullinger back into the starting lineup tonight. Sullinger is Boston’s top scorer and rebounder. Those types of guys don’t typically come off the bench. Additionally, the Knicks don't possess a traditional center that would give Sullinger problems, and Zeller has also shown that he can play well in a reserve role.

Tayshaun Prince in, Jae Crowder out

Jae Crowder opened a lot of eyes when he scored in double-figures six times in nine games from Dec. 27-Jan. 12. Since then, however, he has struggled.

Crowder has not scored in double-figures since Jan. 12 and is shooting just 39.0 percent from the field since that date, a span of 10 games. This isn’t to say that he isn’t still bringing solid defense and rebounding to the table – he is – but his shooting has been underwhelming.

Such has not been the case for Tayshaun Prince. Prince has been rejuvenated since his arrival in Boston. The 13-year veteran has scored an average of 9.7 points per game on 61.4 percent shooting from the field and 66.7 percent shooting from 3-point range with Boston. He has also proven to be a leader and calming factor for his teammates while on the court.

Stevens seems to love Prince’s game, and it’s easy to understand why the coach may want to insert the veteran into the starting lineup. It could pay huge dividends for the starting group. That being said, Prince’s availability for tonight’s game is uncertain, as he’s still dealing with a strained hip flexor.

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