BOSTON — Evan Turner garnered most of the headlines following the Celtics’ come-from-behind win over the Orlando Magic on Friday, but Turner’s season-best offensive outburst wouldn’t have been possible without the contributions of a certain seldom-used point guard.
“The guy who spearheaded the whole night was Phil Pressey,” head coach Brad Stevens said after his team’s 95-88 victory. “Evan carried us with his scoring. But Phil Pressey’s defense was huge, and Phil Pressey getting out on the break was huge. And then his ability to get to the foul line, break people down on the dribble and get to the rim a couple of times when we had nothing going was huge.
“I just credited him in the locker room. He didn’t play for a month. But he was a pro. Him responding and being ready is a real testament to Phil.”
No Celtics player has seen his role fluctuate more over the course of this season than Pressey, who’s appeared in just 38 of Boston’s 64 games. A smattering of those appearances have come in garbage time, but more often than not, the second-year guard has been tasked with a heavy workload when called upon.
Pressey has played double-digit minutes 23 times this season, the most important of which came this week following an injury to starter Isaiah Thomas. Pressey barely took off his warmups during Thomas’ first 10 games in Boston, but with a badly bruised back sidelining Thomas for the last two contests, Pressey assumed the role as the floor general of the C’s second unit.
“I had a talk with Phil about three weeks ago,” Stevens said, “and said, you know, right after Isaiah came it’s pretty obvious he’s not going to play as much, right? When Isaiah’s healthy. But Phil, I told him, he’s a really valued member of our team, in our organization. He works the right way. If he doesn’t play, he’s the loudest guy on the bench. And, if he does play, he’s the energizer.”
Pressey was at his best against Orlando, notching season highs in points and assists (10 apiece) and spending more time on the floor than starting point guard Marcus Smart. Pressey’s 27 minutes also represented a season high.
“Phil was unbelievable,” center Kelly Olynyk said. “He’s been there, ready, game in and game out. He hasn’t really gotten the opportunity. But he hasn’t bowed his head at all, or been upset, or anything like that. He’s been the ultimate team guy. When his number was called, he delivered.”
Barring any unforeseen setbacks in Thomas’ rehab, Pressey’s uptick in playing time will be short-lived. When the former is healthy enough to go, which might be as soon as Monday, the latter will return to his usual spot at the end of the bench.
But as long as the Celtics continue to trend upward toward the postseason, you won’t hear him complaining.
“For me, it’s just winning,” Pressey said. “I don’t mind not playing as long as we’re winning. I felt like from day one. As long as we’re winning, I’m happy.”
Thumbnail photo via Bob DeChiara/USA TODAY Sports Images
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