Tuesday, Oct. 24 – Knicks at Celtics
Pregame – Larkin Shining in Smart’s Absence
BOSTON – When the Boston Celtics signed point guard Shane Larkin this summer, many NBA pundits projected him to play a very limited role off the bench. Brad Stevens, however, had big hopes in for the 25-year-old journeyman, and he has already provided a phenomenal boost for Boston’s second unit.
Larkin took a large chunk of Marcus Smart’s minutes Friday night in Philadelphia as Smart was sidelined with injuries to both of his ankles. Larkin seized the opportunity by notching 10 points, four assists and two rebounds, while logging a game-best plus/minus rating of plus-16 and leading the C’s to their first win of the season.
With Smart out again Tuesday night against the New York Knicks, Stevens once again may look to lean on Larkin for support.
“When we signed Shane this summer, we thought he was going to be a really important part of our team, because when you have a guy that can play with other point guards, it gives you some versatility there,” Stevens said ahead of Tuesday’s tip-off. “I’ve always believed that you need a guy that can change the tempo of the game if things aren’t going your way, if you’re not able to score, if you need to pick up the core, and all that other stuff.”
Larkin, who is with his fifth professional team in five seasons, did just that Friday night. Stevens put him in the game in the second half when the Celtics were down, and he helped bring them back with his pristine passing and a perfect shooting clip during the fourth quarter.
“He’s a really important part of our team, whether he plays four minutes or whether he finishes the game like the other night,” said Stevens. “The ability to have somebody like that who can change the tempo, I think, is really important.”
Stevens added that Smart is continuing to progress, but was a bit sore this afternoon after going through some lateral movement drills. He will travel with the team tomorrow to Milwaukee, and hopefully will be able to suit up during Boston’s two-game road-trip.
In the meantime, expect Larkin to continue to step in and fill his void as an energetic spark off the bench.
– Taylor C. Snow