Rozier Rising to the Occasion in Playoffs

WALTHAM, Mass. – Al Horford had a hunch that Terry Rozier was going to make a major postseason impact for the Boston Celtics.

The veteran big man stated ahead of Boston’s first-round series with the Chicago Bulls that he believed the second-year point guard did not reach his peak playing level during the regular season and was “due to break out” once the Playoffs began.

The Celtics are now four games into the postseason, and Rozier is already making Horford out to be a wise man.

Rozier has played a key role off the bench in Boston’s last three games, averaging 6.0 points per game on 50 percent shooting from the field and 44.4 percent shooting from 3-point range. He scored a playoff career-high 11 points during Boston’s Game 3 win, while canning three 3-pointers during 23 minutes of play.

Beyond his stats, Rozier’s high-energy presence has provided a huge spark for Boston when he’s on the court. To prove that point, he has a team-high total plus/minus rating of plus-30 this postseason during 47 minutes of play. The next-closest Celtic in that category is Isaiah Thomas with a plus-11 during 147 minutes of play.

“Terry’s ready for that moment,” said an impressed Thomas Tuesday afternoon following Celtics practice. “One thing about the Playoffs is you’re either ready for the moment or you’re not, and he’s one of those guys that no matter what, he’s ready for it.”

Rozier has maintained a “stay ready” mentality throughout his first two seasons in the NBA. Because the Celtics are so guard-heavy, he’s had to fight for minutes. When they’re given to him, he steps up more often than not, and Horford believes Rozier’s patience will eventually pay off.

“I think it’s hard for him because we have so many guys around his position that can play,” said Horford. “But Terry, he’s going to keep getting better. He’s going to be a great player. He just has so much ability.”

Celtics coach Brad Stevens also had a hunch that Rozier’s abilities would come in handy during Boston’s series with the Bulls. After dropping Game 1, Stevens hinted that Rozier, who registered a DNP that night, could play a major role in games to come. Sure enough, Rozier saw 13 minutes of action during Game 2, and the Celtics outscored the Bulls by 11 points while he was on the floor.

While Rozier has had an inconsistent role this season, Stevens has always believed in his ability to step up when called upon.

“There have been times (this season) where we’ve sat Terry because of a matchup or whatever, but it’s never been because Terry wasn’t ready or he wasn’t a guy that we really believed in,” Stevens said Tuesday afternoon. “He’s had a good year, he’s done a lot of good things for us, and he’s played really well in these (last) three games.”

Rozier’s solid contributions over the last three contests have also had a positive impact on Thomas. Since the young, backup guard has been performing so well, Thomas has been able to take a few breathers during games and not worry about the team going stagnant while he’s on the sideline.

“Anything he brings to this team is a plus, and I know he’s going to bring energy,” said Thomas. “He’s going to knock down shots and he’s going to play defense. That’s all we need from him.”

Rozier has done everything the Celtics have asked of him, and more, during the last three games. He’s played a critical role in helping Boston even up the series at two games apiece after falling into a 2-0 hole against the Bulls.

This comes to no surprise to Horford, who believes that Rozier’s play of late is a sign of things to come in the future.

“He’s going to be great, it’s just a matter of time,” said Horford. “The more opportunities he keeps getting, I know he’s going to take advantage of them.”

Considering the track record that Horford has with his hunches about Rozier, don’t be shocked if that one eventually proves true as well.

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