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BOSTON — There’s a reason Brad Stevens didn’t feel at all uncomfortable putting the ball in the hands of Terry Rozier in the clutch.
Rozier not only delivered a clutch 3-pointer that would’ve won Sunday’s game in regulation, more importantly he took the reins of the fatigued Celtics in overtime and led them to a 113-107 win in Game 1.
“Terry’s a stud. Terry is a hard-nosed guy, he’s a competitive guy,” Stevens said. “He’s got great ability. And you know, obviously, he made some huge, huge plays there for us. And the shot of the end of regulation, obviously, was the highlight of that.”
Before heading into Game 1, Rozier made a trip over to the home of the star he was replacing in the starting lineup. Rozier said after Sunday’s game that he spent time with Kyrie Irving and took away some shoes and the confidence to know that he could handle Sunday’s big moment.
Rozier finished with 23 points on 7-of-18 shooting after starting the game missing seven of his first nine shots.
But it was the step-back three that will forever be etched into the minds of fans who were there for Sunday’s epic finish.
“The last play in regulation, JT (Jayson Tatum) was coming off a stagger and that’s why I gave him the look and I kind of figured Bledsoe (Eric Bledsoe) would bite and it allowed me to make a move and get to my step-back three,” Rozier said. “That was the option for me to shoot, there was the option for JT (Jayson Tatum) to come off or there was an option for Morris (Marcus) to slip to the basket, all three options and I went with mine. The foul on Giannis, there were a lot of tough calls tonight and I think they owed us that one.”
Rozier can, at times, be a streaky shooter and Sunday proved that again. He was cold to start but red-hot when the Celtics needed him in the clutch. Apparently, Eric Bledsoe and the Bucks were sort of thinking the same thing, wanting the third-year guard out of Louisville to prove to them that his shot should be respected.
“Once I was looking at the defense and I figured when you’re on defense and it’s the last shot all you’re thinking about is where the offensive guy is looking,” Rozier said. “I know they were trying to take that away so I figured he (Bledsoe) was going to bite on that so whether he bit or not I was going to take the shot.”
With his first playoff start out of the way and Irving cheering him on from the bench, Rozier hopes he has many more big moments in store for himself and the Celtics.
“It’s been amazing. This is my third time in the league, third time in the playoffs and it just keeps getting better,” Rozier added. “It’s unfortunate what happened to our teammates throughout the whole year, but we still got each other and we still got to fight, still got to win. I just love playing with these guys and they just give me all the confidence in the world, but this year is probably the best one plus I’m starting so it’s like a dream.”