Stevens pushes the right buttons vs. Cavs


BOSTON – Having good players is half the battle when it comes to winning at a high level. How they are utilized is just as important.

On Wednesday night, Celtics coach Brad Stevens was seemingly pushing all the right buttons when his team pulled away for a surprisingly comfortable 102-88 win over Cleveland.


Stevens has said all season that there would be a certain fluidity to his lineups this season because of the team’s depth and ability to have more opponent-specific rotations.

For example, Stevens felt he needed more skilled talent with his first group so he put Marcus Morris in the lineup which slid Al Horford over to center to better match up against Kevin Love.

And with the lineups utilized most often by the Cavs, it also meant fewer minutes for rookie big man Daniel Theis.

Theis only played five minutes, but managed to knock down a pair of 3-pointers to finish with six points.

And with Morris in the starting lineup, that created more scoring opportunities for Boston’s bench players with the biggest beneficiary of that being Terry Rozier.

He led all players with 20 points on 8-for-12 shooting.

Not only was Stevens pleased with his team’s play, but also how easily his players have embraced roles that might be expanded on one night and non-existent another.

“There’s going to be games where we’ll start Al [Horford] and [Aron] Baynes and Theis will play 20 minutes,” Stevens said. “And there will be games where it’s a little bit more difficult to do that, based on the shooting that’s out on the floor. And so, I just appreciate the willingness of all these guys to play their roles to the best of their ability, because that’s how teams work.”

Here are five other takeaways from Boston’s 102-88 win over Cleveland:

This has been seen by many as one of the Celtics’ biggest weaknesses this season. But as we get deeper into the season and they get healthier, the bench's play is becoming more impactful in a positive way. They average 31.3 points scored per game which, according to, ranks 23rd in the NBA. But in the past five games, they are averaging 39.0 points per game which ranks 11th in the league in that span.

When you’re talking about the Celtics bench and their play, a lot of that chatter begins and ends with the play of Rozier. He has logged more minutes off the bench (952) than anyone in the NBA this season which gives him plenty of time to deliver the goods. Did he ever on Wednesday, scoring a game-high 20 points in just under 20 minutes of play.  

We’ve seen Al Horford have better games statistically, but Wednesday’s game against Cleveland was one of his finer moments in Boston. He had 11 points on 5-for-7 shooting to go with nine rebounds and three assists. But more impressive was his defense on Kevin Love who wound up with two points after missing 10 of his 11 shots from the field.

The plan every game for Boston is to do a good job in moving the ball so that good shots can become great ones with an extra pass or two. That was indeed on display Wednesday with the Celtics having 27 assists on 41 made baskets. To put that in perspective, the Celtics are now 16-2 this season when they tally 24 or more assists in a game.

One of Boston’s strengths has been its ability to put teams in catch-up mode early and often. At the end of the first quarter on Wednesday, Boston held a 32-21 lead over the Cavs. The Celtics have now outscored opponents in the first quarter in 14 of their last 20 games.


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