When one door closes, another one opens.
Kyrie Irving was out of action for the Boston Celtics on Wednesday after sustaining a quad contusion during Monday’s win over the Denver Nuggets. While the C’s, of course, are a better team with Irving in the lineup, his absence created a big opportunity for Terry Rozier.
Rozier started at point guard in place of Irving against the New York Knicks, and his role was increased even more due to guards Marcus Smart and Shane Larkin also being out of action. But the versatile guard took advantage of the moment and then some, recording his first career triple-double (17 points, 11 rebounds, 10 assists) in Boston’s 103-73 blowout victory over the Knicks at TD Garden on Wednesday.
Boston played with great pace while Rozier ran the offense, and the increased tempo clearly gave the Knicks’ defense trouble. The 23-year-old, as usual, also played strong defense, and his complete-game effort manifested itself with a game-high plus-32 rating. Rozier also led the C’s with 32 minutes played.
It should be interesting to see if Rozier’s showing against the Knicks will have any effect on head coach Brad Stevens. While Irving is expected to be back in the starting lineup for Friday’s game against the Atlanta Hawks, Smart likely still is a week away from returning to game action. This could result in a continued spike in minutes for Rozier, who continues to prove he’s arguably Boston’s best option off the bench.
If nothing else, Wednesday night had to have provided a major boost for Rozier’s confidence. The third-year guard now knows he’s capable of running the show in a starting role, which is a major plus for the Celtics in case they run into prolonged injuries. Rozier played with a fearless mindset against the Knicks, and Boston surely will expect that from him for the remainder of the regular season and potentially a deep playoff run.
Here are some other notes from Celtics-Knicks:
— Rozier became just the second player in NBA history to record a triple-double in their first career start.
— The Knicks matched an unfortunate record in Boston’s archives.
— Marcus Morris scored a game-high 20 points, but his big night was matched with injury. The veteran forward awkwardly fell to the floor after throwing down a dunk in the third quarter, which forced his exit from the game. He officially was diagnosed with a bruised left hip.
— Despite the daunting presences of Enes Kanter and Kristaps Porzingis, the Celtics still managed to outrebound the Knicks by a 49-44 margin.
— The Celtics improved their home record to 19-8 with the win.
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