The Jason Terry 3-point shots might have brought the TD Garden crowd to its feet, but there was something far more important to be gleaned from his performance against the Timberwolves Wednesday. And not just his performance, Courtney Lee’s too.
It was the combination that has finally been demonstrating its potential over the past week. With Rajon Rondo suspended for two games, Terry and Lee were compelled to coexist on the court, to figure out how to work together and play off each other.
And that might have been the best thing to come out of the Rondo suspension. For Doc Rivers, at least, it was important to see, important for him to understand better how to use his bench.
“They’ve been together, but it’s almost like neither one of them really wanted to run the position,” Rivers said. “And when they were forced to, they realized there are sets we can run where they don’t have to be the point and be very effective. Now they’re doing it.
“And so I thought they did that [Wednesday], and it was simple for them.”
Lee showed more than what he had earlier in the season. But it’s in working with Terry, coming up with ways to impact games without their starting point guard on the court, that Lee has shown the most growth.
“We’ve built up some good chemistry, he and I,” Terry said. “It took a while, but we’ve gotten there now because both can handle the ball, we both can get us into our offense early, and we both like to fly out in transition. And you don’t lose much defensively, either.”
The pair worked particularly well together in Wednesday’s game when Rondo wasn’t on the court. They were able to navigate both the Timberwolves and themselves, as they continue learning the intricacies that will allow for better communication, better teamwork, better results.
And while Terry was more effective offensively — 17 points on 7-of-10 shooting, 3 of 5 from behind the arc — the importance of Lee’s defense and of not losing ground when Rondo was on the sideline was equally crucial.
“A multitude of ball handlers can be on the floor at any given time, and so that’s why our skill set plays right in for each other,” Terry said. “If I see him get the outlet, I’m gone; if he sees me, he’s gone. So there’s no hesitation, and it’s definitely a much, much smoother burden on each other.”
Sixers times two
With the win Wednesday night and back-to-back games against the 76ers coming up, the Celtics did not practice Thursday. They face the scheduling quirk of a home-and-home series Friday and Saturday.
“I’d like to just beat them once,” Rivers said. “I’d like to beat them both times, but they’re playing well against us, and we’re going to have to deal with that. They must have great confidence against us.”
Given that the Celtics appear to be turning things around, Rivers believes the 76ers will be a good test. And the back-to-back scenario makes things even more interesting.
“I think it makes games very competitive,” he said. “Even the first one, because the team knows you’re going to see them tomorrow, too. I’ve always liked those. It’s like a mini-playoff in the middle of the season.”
Jared Sullinger was the latest of the Celtics to be felled by the illness that is going around. Rivers acknowledged that Sullinger was under the weather during Wednesday’s game, and he didn’t know if he would be available against Philadelphia. “He throws his body around,” Rivers said. “He’s got it. He may as well use it. I just like that he’s starting to play with his motor higher. His IQ is already high. So if you put that with a high motor, good things will happen.” Sullinger had 7 points, 5 of which came from the free throw line, and seven rebounds against the Timberwolves.Amalie Benjamin can be reached at abenjamin @globe.com. Follow her on Twitter @amaliebenjamin.