The bench got it started for the Boston Celtics on Thursday night, but the unit didn’t get to finish it.
The Celtics’ reserves were stellar against the Los Angeles Lakers at TD Garden. Daniel Theis arguably had his best game of the season with 20 points, while Terry Rozier (19 points) and Jaylen Brown (18 points) weren’t far behind.
But while Boston’s starters, by and large, struggled for the majority of the contest, head coach Brad Stevens rolled with his starting five for the bulk of crunch time. The Lakers dominated down the stretch and completed their comeback with a Rajon Rondo game-winner as time expired.
Although Kyrie Irving paced Boston with a team-high 24 points, the star point guard was fairly out of sync to the tune of a 6-for-21 shooting mark from the field. And given how well Rozier had been playing, some within the C’s locker room reportedly felt Irving’s understudy earned the right to close out the game.
“This is his (Irving’s) franchise, and I think what’s happening right now to Boston is problematic,” Stephen A. Smith said Friday on ESPN’s “First Take.” “Last night, for example — from what I’m told by sources inside that locker room — you had people that were very upset because Terry Rozier was ballin’ last night. He had to come out late in the game because Kyrie Irving was brought in. I’m not saying he (Rozier) was upset or whatever. I’m not sure who it was, I didn’t get into those details.”
Spreading out minutes among a bevy of talented players has been an issue for the C’s all season. And while it’s certainly a good problem to have, Smith believes it could be what drives Irving out of town.
“What I’m saying,” Smith said, “is that between trying to reingratiate Gordon Hayward into the equation, with Jaylen Brown clearly being compromised and his game having suffered, with Jayson Tatum taking a little while to get back in the mix, with Kyrie being who he is and as a result it’s holding back Terry Rozier to some degree — who’s not Kyrie, but I think could be a starting guard in the NBA. All of those things may find itself forcing Kyrie Irving to say, ‘Do I really need to be here?’ We never know, and that’s what we got to keep our eye on.”
There’s no doubt the basketball world will pay mind to Irving from now until he eventually signs the dotted line this summer. After initially eliminating the idea of a potential move from Boston, Irving since has walked back a bit on his plans for the future.
Thumbnail photo via Jeremy Brevard/USA TODAY Sports