Playing with arguably the most depleted lineup the Boston Celtics have rolled out all season Friday night, Terry Rozier and Jayson Tatum cashed in on the opportunity to put their skills on full display.
Both players tallied career-high point totals while four of their teammates were out with injury, forcing the Celtics to employ a 10-man roster. The short numbers were little issue, however, as Rozier dropped 31 points and Tatum added 27 as the Celtics beat the Atlanta Hawks 119-110 at TD Garden.
Rozier waited north of 160 career games to finally get his chance to start an NBA game before his number was called in place of an injured Kyrie Irving on Wednesday against the New York Knicks. In his two starts, the 23-year-old posted a triple-double in the first and a career-high point total in the second.
He went 11-for-18 from the field Friday, shooting at a 6-for-8 clip from beyond the arc as well, altogether shattering his previous career-high of 23 by the final two minutes of the third quarter.
While it would be impossible to expect Rozier to routinely keep up with that pace as a starter, it’s clear that his confidence level is through the roof, especially when it comes to his shot selection and shooting efficiency. As a result, it’s allowing the Celtics to keep earning wins while being patient as Irving works his way back from a quad injury.
“It feels good, like I said all the credit goes to the coaching staff and my teammates for making it possible for me,” Rozier told NBC Sports Boston’s Brian Scalabrine following the game. “Anybody that’s got a chance to get a starting job and take that starting position while guys are out, I think they’d be happy. I’m just happy for the moment and I’m just trying to play and control what I can control and just have fun.”
Even at 19 years old, Tatum has started every game this season, and he leapfrogged his previous career high of 22 points as he dropped at least 20 for the seventh time this season.
Like Rozier, the most noticeable thing about Tatum is his confidence and ability to read what he’s capable of providing on a given night. It has been well-documented how well Tatum is at shooting from 3-point territory, but in shooting 11-for-19 from the field Friday, he took just one three-pointer all night, which he missed. From then on, he hit four of his shots from outside the paint, and with the exception of one bucket from eight feet out, he hit everything else right at the rim.
The Celtics have been fortunate to go up against favorable opponents in their last two games, but there’s no such thing as an easy win in the NBA. With the Celtics in dire need of someone to step up Friday in order to secure their third win in a row, Rozier and Tatum took it upon themselves to do just that.
Here are some other notes from Celtics-Hawks:
— Rozier became the second player (Irving being the other) to score at least 30 points for the Celtics this season.
— Tatum, Irving and Jaylen Brown combined for 77 points on 56.9 percent shooting in Friday’s win.
— All five of the Celtics’ starters scored in double figures on Friday.
— Marcus Smart will miss at least another 10-14 days with lacerations to his right hand. Irving is day-to-day with a right quad contusion, while Marcus Morris also is out for the “foreseeable future” due to a bruised left hip. Shane Larkin also missed his third straight game with a sore right knee.
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