However, if the Boston Celtics wanted to make a trip to the NBA Finals, they’d need some magic. Without Kyrie Irving, Gordon Hayward, Marcus Smart and Daniel Theis, they would probably need more offensive firepower.
They got it. Meet Terry Rozier.
Don’t know who the f–k that is? Um, this guy.
Bledsoe isn’t kidding anyone. He knows who Rozier is — even if many NBA fans don’t quite yet. For those unfamiliar with Rozier, he is the guy who gives Boston hope to appear against the Golden State Warriors or Houston Rockets in the NBA Finals.
“Terry’s a stud,” Brad Stevens said Monday.
Rozier is a 6-foot-2, 190-pound, 24-year-old guard out of Louisville. he is in his third year in the NBA after the Celtics selected him 16th overall in 2015. After his second quiet year in 2016-17, there was chatter of him getting cut to make space during the Gordon Hayward deal. He’s come a long way since then. Game 1 against the Milwaukee Bucks was his first career start in a playoff game.
Yes, Horford, Brown and Tatum are the biggest factors in driving the Celtics through the playoffs. But Rozier has made himself the x-factor, an essential offensive focal point, the shimmering shamrock and the luck of the Irish(/Celtics).
Rozier’s performances in these last two games aren’t an irregularity for the young point guard. Rozier has played big in relief of Irving this season. Against the Raptors on March 31, Rozier had 21 points, seven assists, three rebounds and a steal. He had a career-high against the lowly Kings with 33 points. Against the Wizards on March 14, he had 21 points, nine assists and five rebounds.
His production slowed in the final games of the regular season this April, in part because of an ankle injury. But he’s had moments of brilliance that far surpass his season averages (11.3 ppg, 2.9 app, 4.7 rpg). His ability to perform well against the Bucks and Bledsoe, a bruising defender, is a good sign for Rozier, a smaller guard.
This isn’t to say Rozier is the second coming of Irving. But Rozier has already showed he can be trusted in any situation — even in the final moments of the game. Rozier knocked down a 3-pointer with just .5 seconds left in Game 1 (see tweet above). In the process, he rendered Bledsoe useless with a step-back jumper. Khris Middleton spoiled the moment by tying the game up in heroic fashion with that half-second left before the Celtics won in overtime.
Just as important as a clutch play like the one he had in Game 1 is Rozier’s sound decision making as a ball-handler. He’s recorded zero turnovers in two games. Damian Lillard has seven — Rajon Rondo has six.
In these playoffs, the Celtics youngsters will get some significant seasoning. But that doesn’t mean they can’t make a dent in the Eastern Conference on the way to the NBA Finals. Rozier can help them make it happen.