BOSTON — It didn’t even take two months into the regular season for Celtics head coach Joe Mazzulla to solidify his rotations.

After figuring out Boston’s highly talented starting five by moving Al Horford to a reserve role, the Celtics’ contingent of bench players forced Mazzulla into decisions about who he will play on a nightly basis.

And Mazzulla already has his mind made up on who will receive minutes.

“So, it’s Payton (Pritchard), Sam (Hauser), Luke (Kornet) and Al when we’re 100% healthy like that’s our nine,” Mazzulla said. “They’ve developed a tremendous identity from the first week of the season where everybody thought they weren’t good. They’ve turned into a team, so they’ve done a great job.”

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But Mazzulla had to change his bench rotation on the fly Thursday night in a 116-107 win over the Cleveland Cavaliers to move to a perfect 12-0 on the famed parquet this season.

Luke Kornet was a late scratch due to left adductor tightness, forcing Mazzulla to adjust. He didn’t plan on playing Lamar Stevens, but the 6-foot-6 forward received nine minutes against his former team.

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Stevens, who had accumulated four straight DNPs and played sparingly this season, answered Mazzulla’s call, notching four points to go along with one rebound, one assist, one steal and one block.

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The minutes from Stevens weren’t the most impactful, but they were needed. And whether it’s Stevens or the other members at the end of Boston’s bench — Oshae Brissett, Dalano Banton, Svi Mykhailiuk and Neemias Queta — Mazzulla has pressed upon them to be ready. Jayson Tatum said he calls them the “stay-ready group.”

“The unit behind that, you have to have a lot of conversations with them because I do think there are games, and I learned this last year, whether it’s back-to-backs and whether there’s injuries, they have to play and we need you to keep the train moving and do everything you’re supposed to do and win,” Mazzulla said. “So that’s part of the conversation I have with them is, ‘You can’t underestimate your role because when it’s time to play, you have to execute.’ We had those conversations at the beginning of the season, and the way those guys work every day they’re ready for that. And so I had no issue going with Lamar because of what I see him do every day.”

Mazzulla’s rotation likely will change come the playoffs, and it should. Shortening his bench will be a necessity as the Celtics will need to lean more heavily on their stars, especially in the later rounds. It probably would be best for the Celtics to look to upgrade Kornet’s spot, too, given Porzingis’ injury history and teams looking to pick on Kornet in the postseason.

But in the regular season, Boston’s seldom-used players will only get a few opportunities that will come with little heads up and it could be a difference in a win.

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“I don’t know how many opportunities they’re going to get, but I do know they’re going to get some,” Mazzulla said. “… That’s the recipe I think is regardless of who’s playing, guys step in and are ready to play.”

Featured image via David Butler II/USA TODAY Sports Images