Jaylen Brown likes to think of himself as the team’s early bird, the first guy to the gym.
But the second-year forward isn’t the only Celtic on a self-improvement mission, not with Terry Rozier getting to work even earlier.
“Every time,” said Brown. “You see Terry working on his game and the focus level he has of just trying to be the best version of himself, and you can see the results. . . . You can see it. Before the game he’s here working.”
Rozier was in the gym the night before the Celtics’ win over Toronto on Sunday. As part of the routine he worked on shots with the clock winding down.
“Whenever I go to the gym with my trainer, we always wind time down while each of us is getting up shots, like at the end of the clock,” said Rozier. “It’s something I’m trying to simulate in the game. I did that (Saturday) night when I was in the gym. Just try to make it and be fluid while it’s running.
“When I practice it, trying to simulate it, I’m just trying to make it natural,” he said. “Taking shots like that has been working like that for me. I just want to keep it going.”
Rozier could have been working on a bit of muscle memory, then, when he twice beat the clock with game-turning plays against the Raptors — a 3-pointer with 2.8 seconds left in the half that Rozier converted into a four-point play after a foul, and another trey with 3.2 seconds left in the third.
The first shot cut Toronto’s halftime lead to five points. The second gave the Celtics a one-point lead heading into the fourth.
“I thought the two biggest possessions of the game for us were Terry Rozier’s two 3’s at the end of the second and third quarters,” said Brad Stevens. “They gave us a chance at halftime — or made us feel better about ourselves.”
It wouldn’t happen without Rozier feeling better, or more confident, about his own shot. Since contributing as part of a playoff rotation his rookie season, Rozier slowly has grown into the backup point guard role, one that has increased recently because of Kyrie Irving’s facial fracture.
It no longer takes much for Rozier to launch, as he did for a career-high-tying 16 points against the Raptors.
“It’s crazy. He’s pulling up without even thinking about it,” said Marcus Smart. “Every time he shoots the ball, it looks like it’s going in.”
If there was hesitation in Rozier’s game before, there doesn’t appear to be a trace of doubt now when he gets the ball.
“It doesn’t seem like it. I mean, he’s going out there aggressive,” said Al Horford. “And that’s what we need from him. He needs to stay aggressive.
“(He’s) very confident. I think Terry last year, having so many guys ahead of him, he was still trying to find his way,” Horford said. “I think that now he understands what he needs to do for our team. He’s confident. And he’s putting pressure on defenses. He’s going to keep getting better. I still think that he’s not where we want him to be. But he’s making a lot of strides.”
That includes late-game situations, which are normally the province of Smart.
“No. I’m glad he did,” Smart said when asked if Rozier was taking his title. “That’s Terry. Terry’s been scoring the ball real well and we have tremendous confidence in him. We’re going to need that down the stretch. I’m just happy that he’s playing well.”