Celtics' small lineup comes up big

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Celtics' small lineup comes up big

BOSTON At one point in Wednesday's loss to San Antonio, the Celtics had a lineup on the floor that had four guards 6-foot-5 or shorter and an undersized power forward in 6-8 Brandon Bass, at center.
If you missed it, no need to worry.
There's a good chance that you'll see some incarnation of Boston's "small ball" lineup tonight against Chicago.
"The Bulls go small as well," said Celtics coach Doc Rivers.
But they do so as part of their game plan, which allows them to be effective with a big lineup as well as a small one.
With so few big men on the roster, Boston has no choice most nights but to go with an undersized unit from time to time.
And while it does leave the C's vulnerable to getting clobbered on the boards, having a floor full of guards has its positives as well.
That was certainly the case in the Spurs loss, with the guard-oriented unit helping Boston chip away at a 17-point deficit and ultimately take the lead late into the fourth quarter.
"The small lineup saved us against the Spurs," said coach Doc Rivers. "Because the big lineup was killing us."
Kevin Garnett also spent some time on the floor with a small lineup that had him at center.
"I thought it made us quicker, and more scrappier," Garnett said. "We got more loose balls."
And it was desperately needed against a San Antonio Spurs team that seemed on the verge of making it a blowout until the C's small-ball unit returned the game to a more competitive state.
"On a night where we needed to do something different, because we weren't getting any stops and we weren't getting out in transition," said Keyon Dooling, who saw action with the C's small-ball units. "It was a great changeup for us. Everybody came in and played well."
Among the Celtics who probably flourishes most with the smaller lineup is Rajon Rondo. Already one of the better rebounding guards in the NBA, having a floor full of guards allows him to get out and play at a tempo more to his liking.
"We're a lot faster," Rondo said. "We want to run and score in the first six seconds. With guards on the court with you, they can get down and spread the floor; Avery Bradley going to basket, Ray Allen and Paul Pierce stretching with the three."It was a good time for the C's small-ball group to have some success with the playoffs right around the corner.
"Just to be able to have that versatility and to be able to get some regular season experience in the playoffs, it could be all kinds of lineups out there," Dooling said. "So it's good to get that small ball experience because we may run into a team that plays small lineups. Not only is it good for us and what we do, but also good to be able to match up with teams and not miss a beat."

With Thomas drawing attention, Stevens turns to Rozier in big moment

With Thomas drawing attention, Stevens turns to Rozier in big moment

BOSTON – Prior to Saturday’s game, Terry Rozier talked to CSNNE.com about the importance of staying ready always, because “you never know when your name or number is going to be called.”

Like when trailing by three points in the fourth quarter with less than 10 seconds to play?

Yes, Rozier was on the floor in that scenario and the second-year guard delivered when his team needed it.

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But Rozier’s fourth quarter heroics which forced overtime against Portland, did not provide that much-needed jolt that Boston needed as the Blazers managed to fend off the Celtics in overtime, 127-123.

For Rozier’s part, he had 15 points on 6-for-13 shooting.

The 15 points scored for Rozier was the most for him since he tallied 16 in a 30-point Celtics win at Orlando on Dec. 7.

But more than the points, the decision by head coach Brad Stevens to draw up a play for him in that moment, a time when most of what Boston does revolves around the shooting of Isaiah Thomas who has been among the top-3 scorers in the fourth quarter most of this season, was surprising to many.

And at that point in the game, Thomas already had 13 fourth-quarter points.

Stevens confirmed after the game that the last shot in the fourth was indeed for Rozier, but Thomas’ presence on the floor was important to its execution.

“He (Thomas) also draws a lot of attention,” Stevens said. “So I think you just weigh kind of … what kind of shot you’re going to get, depending on who it is.”

Rozier had initially screened for Thomas, and Thomas came back and screened for him.

“I was open as soon as I caught … and I let it fly,” Rozier said. “Coach drew up a play for me and it felt good to see the ball go in.”

Being on the floor at that time, win or lose, was a victory of sorts for Rozier.

He has seen first-hand how quickly the tide can change in the NBA for a young player.

After a strong summer league showing and a solid training camp, Rozier had earned himself a firm spot in the team’s regular rotation.

But a series of not-so-great games coupled with Gerald Green’s breakout night on Christmas Day, led to his playing time since then becoming more sporadic.

Rozier, in an interview with CSNNE.com, acknowledged it hasn’t been easy going from playing regular minutes to not being sure how much court time, if any, he would receive.

But he says the veterans on the team have been good about keeping his spirits up, and one in particular – Avery Bradley – has been especially helpful.

Like Rozier, Bradley’s first couple of years saw his playing time go from non-existent to inconsistent. But Bradley stayed the course and listened to the team’s veterans who continued to tell him that his hard work would pay off sooner or later.

Those same words of wisdom Bradley received in his early days, he passes on to Rozier.

“It’s big,” Rozier told CSNNE.com. “He (Bradley) tells me things like that. I felt I was ready for this (inconsistent minutes) after all that he told me. It’s big to have a guy like him that has been through it all with a championship team, been around this organization for a while; have him talk to you is big. It’s always good. That’s why I stay positive, and be ready.”

Which is part of the reason why Stevens didn’t hesitate to call up a play for the second-year guard despite him being a 33.3 percent shooter from 3-point range this season – that ranks eighth on this team, mind you.

“He’s a really good shooter,” Stevens said of Rozier. “I think with more opportunity that will show itself true, but he made some big ones in the fourth quarter. We went to him a few different times out of time-outs, and felt good about him making that one.”

And to know that Stevens will turn to him not just to spell Thomas or one of the team’s other guards, but to actually make a game-altering play in the final seconds … that’s major.

“It helps tremendously,” said Rozier who added that his confidence is through “the roof. It makes me want to do everything. You know defense, all of that. It’s great, especially to have a guy like Brad trust you."