These last two games have been huge for the Boston Celtics.
The team has now won back-to-back games against teams above .500 for the first time since beating the Washington Wizards and Atlanta Hawks back in early January, and a tweaked rotation might be the cause for these two big wins.
Terry Rozier also saw only 12 minutes of action in the team’s 110-102 win over Washington while he didn’t play at all in the 109-100 win over the Indiana Pacers. Marcus Smart – who is averaging 30.4 minutes per game this year – also played just 20 and 23 minutes respectfully in the two games while his lost minutes seemed to be going to bigger guys like Amir Johnson and Kelly Olynyk, with team minutes leader Avery Bradley also seeing a hike in playing time as well.
Boston plays far less “small ball” with Smart having his bench role reduced and Rozier getting little to no action at all. This seems to have helped ease the team’s rebounding woes a bit as they destroyed the Wizards on the glass – outrebounding them 54-39 – and then they went out and lost the rebounding battle by just two boards against Indiana last night. To help make the team even bigger, Jonas Jerebko didn’t see a single second of playing time in the last two games while Tyler Zeller – who leads the team in rebounds per possession but is still used very sparingly – seemingly took his spot in the rotation. Zeller especially made him impact felt against the Pacers as the 7’0″ veteran scored six points, grabbed three rebounds, dished out two assists and blocked a shot in just ten minutes of action.
Winning against good competition consistently has been a struggle for the Celtics during the Brad Stevens-era, so it’s nice to see them knock off back-to-back wins against teams in playoff position this late in the season. What’s even better is that each win has seemingly come with ease behind this new rotation.
The score in each game was actually a little closer then each of them truly were. Everybody made a big deal about the Celtics fourth quarters for a while because of Isaiah Thomas, but they earned the right in these two games to take the foot off the gas a little bit down the stretch. Boston individually won the first, second and third quarters in each of these wins before getting outscored 27-18 by the Wizards in the final frame and 26-21 by the Pacers in the last 12 minutes while still winning each game by three possessions. Boston never fully buried their opponents to the point where we got some Gino action on the Jumbotron, but neither of these were those nine point wins where it was close the whole way and you just extended the lead late by making all your free throws; they were the kind of games where you felt good about from the opening tip.