BOSTON — As Terry Rozier shook off the cobwebs of a hard foul, and prepared himself to go to the free-throw line with less than four minutes left in a two-possession game between the top two teams in the Eastern Conference, he heard the salute that gave him pause.

“Terry! Terry! Terry!” the Garden crowd chanted to the third-year guard, who prior to midseason had never started an NBA game.

“That is one of my special moments in Boston,” he said later in the night. “Ever.”

Rozier hit both free throws for a 102-94 lead with 3:54 to go, then drove for the exclamation-point basket in the final seconds to cap a 15-3 Boston run in a 110-99 victory on Saturday night that brought the Celtics within two games of the East-leading Raptors with six games to play.

As the Celtics have battled a myriad of injuries, especially the knee pain and eventual surgery that will limit All-Star Kyrie Irving to 60 regular season-games, it has been Rozier who has been as responsible as any one player for Boston’s ability to hit the final 10 days of the regular season still with a shot at the top spot in the East.

Rozier is one of two Celtics to play in all 76 games this season and is posting career highs in every statistical category. With Marcus Smart (hand, thumb) and Shane Larkin (knee, illness) joining Irving on the shelf for stretches of the past month, Rozier has often carried the weight of being the team’s only experienced true point guard on the bench, as the Celtics have somehow continued to win.


“Terry’s great,” Celtics Coach Brad Stevens said before the Celtics embarked on what has become a six-game win streak last Tuesday against Oklahoma City. “Whenever our season ends, Terry will be in a YMCA two days later playing. That’s one of the things I love about him. He loves basketball. He loves to play. He’ll play all day.

“I think it’s quite a testament to him that when things have gotten just a little bit sketchy we’ve got to throw him back in there as quickly as we can. That tells you what we think of him and how much progress he’s making. It’s not an ideal set of circumstances. But it’s a great opportunity for Terry.”

Last Sunday against the Sacramento Kings, Rozier became the only player in NBA history to reach the – admittedly arbitrary – threshold of 30 points, eight 3-pointers, five assists and five steals in a single game. On Saturday, he scored 21 points with seven assists and three rebounds, while hearing the Garden crowd chant his name for the first time.

“That’s like everything I’ve ever dreamed of,” he said. “Just being young, everybody wants to be in the position to play a lot of minutes, and be looked at as one of the leaders on the team, and lead them to victory.

“Just living the dream.”

In doing so, he reached double figures in scoring for the 25th straight game after entering the season with only 16 double-digit scoring regular-season games in his first two seasons in the league.


“I’m coming for LeBron’s record that he just got from Michael Jordan,” Rozier said with a smile of the mark Jordan held at 866 games until James broke it this week. “Nah, I’ve got to say all the praise goes to my teammates and the coaches drawing up plays and having the confidence in me, believing in me.

“My job is easy. I just go out there and try to put the ball in the hole. But they make all that stuff happen in the confidence they show in me.”

While Rozier knows he will go back to the reserve unit once Irving returns from knee surgery during the playoffs, he will do so with the confidence of knowing he played a monumental role in putting the Celtics in as strong a position as could be heading into the postseason amid all the injuries.

“We’ve got a tough, tough, tough team from the first player all the way down,” Rozier said.

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