BOSTON – Celtics coach Brad Stevens felt his team needed a jolt.
It was early in the second half and his squad was down double-digits to one of the worst teams in the NBA on Friday night at TD Garden. So the coach looked down the bench and called on the player he thought he could rely on to disrupt the Philadelphia 76ers and help Boston get back into the game.
He called on second-year guard Terry Rozier.
“I went with Marcus (Smart) and Terry there because I really trust how they compete,” said the coach, whose team went on to rally for a 110-106 victory. “They get after it. They may make a mistake or two here and there. But you know they are really going to get into the ball.
“Terry hadn’t played in a few games and he was excited to play, obviously. So you knew he was going to get up, pressure, and make it more difficult for them.”
Rozier had not played in four of the previous five games after seemingly establishing himself as the backup point guard early in the season. He played at least 10 minutes in the first 27 games of the season, but recently went six straight going under 10 minutes – including three DNP-CDs.
“If I told you it wasn’t tough, I’d be lying,” Rozier said before Saturday night’s game against the New Orleans Pelicans at TD Garden. “But I’ve got a lot of great leaders around me who stay on me. They’ve all been through things like that. It just shows your maturity. You just have to stick to your routine. That comes with being a pro and knowing the coach will come back to you at some point.”
Stevens did come back to Rozier for 21 minutes on Dec. 30 against the Miami Heat when Bradley was unavailable due to illness, and he could be in line for another extended look as Bradley now works his way back from a strained right Achilles.
Stevens said before Saturday’s game that Bradley had treatment on the strain after Friday night’s victory. But when he came in to shoot early on Saturday, it didn’t feel right and he was ruled out of the game.
Bradley was at TD Garden for more treatment on Saturday night, but left prior to tip-off.
“It’s not been told to me that way,” the coach said when asked if it is a serious injury. “But we’ll be appropriately conservative with the Achilles – any muscular injury.”
Smart moved into the starting lineup in Bradley’s absence, with Rozier presumably seeing the biggest minutes bump for however long Bradley is out.
“I’ve just got to keep the focus,” Rozier said. “I kept reminding myself to stay ready and that my time is going to come. I’ve been in that position where you never know when your time’s going to come. The way to handle it is to stay ready. I just wanted to bring as much energy as I could.”
While Rozier didn’t score in his 11 minutes on Friday, he did grab three rebounds and was a plus-5.
“I thought he was pretty good,” Stevens said. “I thought he got into the ball, which we needed. He picked up the ball fullcourt and did a good job in that.
“I just felt like we needed to impact the ball a little better than we were in the first 28 minutes. He’s capable of doing that.”
Tyler Zeller (sinus infection) and James Young (right ankle sprain) remained out of action on Saturday, while Jordan Mickey (illness) was on the active roster after missing Friday night’s game.
Zeller will likely test himself on Monday to see if he is good to travel to Toronto to face the Raptors on Tuesday, while Stevens said Young will be out at least another week.
The Celtics were coming off a game on Friday in which they hit a franchise-record 19 3-pointers, one game removed from tying the previous franchise record of 17 on Tuesday against Utah.
“I’ve said from the get-go we want wide-open layups (first),” Stevens said. “Unfortunately, they are hard to come by. If you can’t get a wide-open layup, your next best bet, if you touch the paint, (is an open 3).
“If we don’t make 3s, we don’t win (on Friday). We’re not beating them. You just have to understand who you are playing against, how they are guarding you, and what the opportunities are. We all know that an open 3 is an efficient shot.”