The Boston Celtics need contributions from everyone as they try and find an identity in the wake of the injury to Gordon Hayward.
And they got just that Friday night in their 102-92 win over the Philadelphia 76ers.
Six players scored in double figures for Boston, and while the focus undoubtedly will be on Kyrie Irving (21 points) and Al Horford (17 points, nine rebounds), it was the unlikely contributions from the Celtics’ bench that made the difference.
All in all, the Celtics played 11 of their 12 players, as Semi Ojeleye was the only player not to see the floor.
The most noteworthy contributions came from Terry Rozier (14 points), Shane Larkin (10 points) and Jabari Bird, who only scored three points but played outstanding perimeter defense on J.J. Redick. Redick (19 points) gave the Celtics fits through the first three quarters, but Bird came in during the final frame and flustered the veteran sharpshooter.
Larkin, meanwhile, controlled the offense, as head coach Brad Stevens elected to have Irving work off the ball during the final quarter to combat the 76ers’ strategy to blitz him on the pick-and-roll. With the ball in Larkin’s hands, Irving was free to probe the defense off the ball, while Horford and Larkin operated at the top of the key. The move worked perfectly, as Irving and Horford combined for 16 points in the quarter. Larkin committed only one giveaway and hit what turned out to be a dagger 3-pointer with under four minutes to go in the fourth quarter.
With Hayward (dislocated ankle and fractured tibia) and Marcus Smart (sprained ankles) sidelined, the C’s needed their bench guards to come up big to secure their first win of the season. Larkin (plus-16) and Bird (plus-11) were a pleasant sight for the shorthanded C’s.
“You know we had a lot of guys step up,” Stevens said, as seen on NBC Sports Boston’s postgame coverage. “Jabari Bird coming in and guarding Redick, and then Shane Larkin was tremendous. We needed everybody. ”
Bird, who the Celtics selected in the second round of the 2017 NBA Draft, joined the Celtics after the injury to Hayward, and he was a little shocked Stevens called his number.
“I’m not going to lie to you, I was a little surprised,” Bird said, per MassLive’s Jay King. “I wasn’t even really supposed to be here, to be honest with you.”
But Bird and Larkin are here now, and Stevens won’t be afraid to look their way again.
Let’s look at more notes from Celtics-76ers:
— Aron Baynes also gave Boston good minutes in his first start of the season, as he scored 10 points and pulled down eight rebounds.
— The 76ers haven’t won a home opener since 2013.
— Celtics rookie Jayson Tatum had a highlight-reel block on fellow rookie Markelle Fultz.
Thumbnail photo via Bill Streicher/USA TODAY Sports Images
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