Celtics rookie Jaylen Brown and sophomore Terry Rozier both found themselves on the court late in the fourth quarter during Boston's five-point victory over the Toronto Raptors. Marcus Smart has had many of these opportunities already, but he too had a big impact late in the game. It is fantastic to see three Celtic players all under 22 years of age playing effective crunch time on a No. 2 team (and against a tough matchup).
Again, Smart has had a role in late games many times already so I want to focus on how well Brown and Rozier performed. Here is what coach Brad Stevens said about their presence on the court:
Brad Stevens says Jaylen Brown and Terry Rozier provide the C's with a "youthful bounce" and an "eagerness to be out there."— Boston Celtics (@celtics) February 2, 2017
There were a couple of sequences that really highlighted Brown and Rozier's development and why they were able to hold their ground in a pivotal fourth quarter.
With 7:30 remaining, Rozier corralled his sixth board of the game and pushed the ball up the court, leading to a Brown open dunk attempt. Kyle Lowry got in the way and fouled Brown, but the 20-year-old showed some emotion afterwards by walking up towards Lowry and exchanging some words. Rozier also showed some passion, picking up a double-technical foul for with DeMarre Carrell. It's still unclear why exactly they were arguing, but it was nice to see the young guys showing some fire -- fire that teammates like Jae Crowder said that Brown needed to show in order to continue developing his game. Brown hit his two free-throws, but got some real revenge the next offensive play when Tyler Zeller connected with him on an explosive lob:
Jaylen Brown! 💪 pic.twitter.com/V8Q0gKXFpQ— Boston Celtics (@celtics) February 2, 2017
It's the little things too though -- Brown has looked much more comfortable on the court lately while in the starting lineup as a whole. He is making the extra pass when needed, playing more in control, and doing a good job of containing his man on defense like he did here late in the fourth quarter:
The kind of defensive play the Celtics want to see from Jaylen Brown late in a game. Covers a lot of ground on the closeout pic.twitter.com/xZhBh2O4fz— Nate Duncan (@NateDuncanNBA) February 2, 2017
The 22-year-old Marcus Smart made more lowkey game-winning plays against Toronto (as usual), including winning a decisive jump-ball late in the contest:
.@smart_MS3 goes all the way 🆙 to help secure a #Celtics victory last night pic.twitter.com/XCjAOYvVpL— Boston Celtics (@celtics) February 2, 2017
Fans are chanting 'M-V-P' for Isaiah Thomas, but the jumpball that Marcus Smart won over Norman Powell who has legit hops? #gamewinningplays— A. Sherrod Blakely (@SherrodbCSN) February 2, 2017
The Celtics are a 2-seed. They just extended their lead on the Raptors. They have Brooklyn's first-rounders over the coming years. And they already have seen big improvements by Rozier, Brown, and Smart who are all under the age of 22. The future is bright my friends!
Follow Erik Johnson on Twitter: @erikjohnson32
Photo by @celtics Erik Johnson 2/02/2017 01:02:00 PM Tweet Edit