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Offseason Work Already Paying off for Rozier

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SALT LAKE CITY – Terry Rozier put an exclamation point on Boston’s 102-94 win over the Sixers Monday night by slamming home a monstrous dunk in transition with 18 seconds left on the clock.

What a fitting ending. Rozier deserved to punctuate the victory that he authored all night long.

Rozier, not No. 1 overall pick Ben Simmons, was the best and most consistent player on the floor Monday night. While Simmons showed brief flashes of elite passing, it was Rozier who got it done at both ends of the court and everywhere between.

The second-year point guard finished the contest with a team-high 18 points to go along with six rebounds and five assists. And although his box score shined bright, it wasn’t necessarily his statistics that stood out most.

No one on the floor seemed as comfortable and confident as Rozier. He was a visible calming factor for a young Celtics team that featured two rookies in its starting lineup and three more who saw action.

As head coach Micah Shrewsberry put it, “He’s our point guard.”

Rozier looked the part, and that’s no surprise now that he has a full year of NBA basketball under his belt.

“It felt like last year, even in the Summer League, I just caught myself moving around too much, just not thinking the game as much,” he said. “So that’s what I wanted to take into consideration this summer and it helped me out a lot coming off the pick-and-roll and just letting everything calm down for me.”

His demeanor rubbed off on his teammates as well, which is the mark of a great leader. Rookie Jaylen Brown, who clearly had some jitters at the start of the contest, commended Rozier’s ability to lead the team.

“He’s a general on the floor,” said Brown. “He gets everybody in position and scores and makes plays. It makes it easier for people like me, because when he draws so much attention on the screen-and-roll, it leaves me open on the shot.”

Rozier’s improved play comes as no surprise to him. After all, he knows better than anyone how much work he has put in since last season came to a close.

Rozier went into the summer with two goals: slowing the game down from a mental perspective, and improving the arc on his shot. It appears that he has reached both of those goals already.

Only one player in the game, teammate R.J. Hunter, made more 3-pointers than Rozier’s two (Hunter made three). Rozier shot 2-for-4 from long distance and also canned another perimeter jumper that was later ruled a 2-pointer. His jumper looked smooth and confident, and that arc he mentioned looked much improved.

Rozier credited his agent, Aaron Turner, for pressuring him to stay in the gym throughout the summer. Turner also took it a step further, hiring shooting coaches to work with Rozier on his jumper.

For at least one day, all of that hard work has paid off. Rozier was unquestionably the best player on the court Monday night, and he capped the game in style.

Over the past 12 months, many have questioned Danny Ainge for selecting Rozier with the No. 16 overall pick in last year’s Draft. If Rozier continues to play the way he did Monday night, the next exclamation point he’ll will write will be at the end of this sentence: “Danny was right!”