Disclaimer: Before anyone yells at their computer or complains about me missing injuries, allow me to explain. I am thinking about the playoffs, so the only injuries (for now) I am taking into consideration are Gordon Hayward and Daniel Theis. Kyrie Irving, Marcus Smart and Jaylen Brown will all presumably be back before the games start to really count again.
The Celtics have typically started games with Irving, Brown, Jayson Tatum, Al Horford and Aron Baynes; however, they close them differently. Marcus Smart usually gets Baynes’ spot as time winds down. With the emergence of Terry Rozier and Marcus Morris, as well, things could get interesting.
As the regular season peters out, Brad Stevens is building his playoff rotation.
While I’m sure Stevens will get it right, this is the lineup I want to see the Celtics close out games with in the postseason.
Point Guard: Kyrie Irving
I feel like I don’t really need to write much here. I mean, c’mon now, it’s Kyrie Irving. As long as he’s healthy, the Celtics will rely on their superstar to take over when they need it most. Hopefully he’s saving his best for a title run.
Shooting Guard: Terry Rozier
And now it gets really, really tough. Marcus Smart should play at least half of the fourth quarter and will guard the other team’s best ball-handler. But man, Terry Rozier is starting to look like he might become a special player. The endorsements of Rozier’s play just don’t seem to subside, and for good reason.
Terry Rozier's averages his last 16 #Celtics games:
15.4 points, 4.6 rebounds, 3.8 assists, 43.6 FG%, 45.7 3PT%, 28.4 minutes. Double-figures in every single game. #ScaryTerry
— Adam Kaufman (@AdamMKaufman) March 12, 2018
Amidst the Celtics’ recent slew of injuries, Rozier has remained consistent and kicked his game to a new level. Whether he’s skying for a rebound or hitting a three as the clock winds down, all this man does is make impact plays.
Even better, Irving and Rozier have superb chemistry, on and off the court. While Rozier does not have typical shooting guard size, he makes up for it with speed and athleticism. Not a lot of players have the sense, speed and acceleration to make this play.
— Boston Celtics (@celtics) March 9, 2018
And look at who approves. Rozier is going to be really good, and he deserves a spot on the court as games dwindle down.
Small forward: Jaylen Brown
I’ve watched that fall a million times. Each time I do, I thank the man above that it wasn’t so much worse. Brown is one of the best defenders in the league and an emerging offensive talent. He usually guards the other team’s best player and still saves enough energy to put it together on the other end. At the ripe age of 21, the sky is limit for Brown.
A year ago he was all but eliminated from Stevens’ postseason rotation, but this is a wildly improved and matured Brown. I can’t wait to see if he can take it to another level in the playoffs.
Power Forward: Jayson Tatum
As much as I wanted to put Marcus Morris here for his recent string of good games, I couldn’t.
Guarantee I sound like a broken record, but Tatum is special. He just turned 20 and does things that veterans cannot. He is still shooting over 43 percent from deep for the season and he’s stayed healthy. He and Rozier are the only two on the roster to play in all 68 games, and he has started every single game of his NBA career.
On one end, Tatum blocks shots, rebounds well, and is capable of guarding three different positions. On offense, he can score at every level. He drives with confidence and shoots mid-range jumpers with an assassin’s mindset.
As bright is his future is, the Celtics need him right now; and will need the rookie even more for the playoffs.
Center: Al Horford
Duh. The ultimate selfless glue-guy that does everything well, some things really well, and makes minimal mistakes. Al Horford is the “OG” of the squad and one of Boston’s best leaders.
Horford’s defense on Towns has been pretty impressive.
— Tom Westerholm (@Tom_NBA) March 9, 2018
With three guys under the age of 24 in this closing five, the Celtics will lean on somebody like him. Horford has logged over 90 postseason games in his career.
Horford could never score 30 points again in his career and still be uber-valuable. His defense is elite and he’s willing to do whatever it takes to make sure the Celtics come out on top. He will more than pivotal in the Boston’s fight to get to the Finals.