Midway through the fourth quarter of the Celtics’ preseason game against the 76ers on Monday, fans at TD Garden began consistently chanting point guard Kyrie Irving’s name.
It was either a plea to coach Brad Stevens or a welcome to Irving, but it was not related to his play. On Monday afternoon, the Celtics announced that starters Irving, Al Horford, Gordon Hayward and Marcus Morris would not play, sapping most of the excitement out of TD Garden.
But the replacements proved quite capable, as the Celtics seized control early and surged to a 113-96 win, improving to 3-0 this preseason.
Third-year point guard Terry Rozier had 15 points, 10 rebounds and 6 assists to pace the Celtics and Marcus Smart added 12 points and 6 rebounds. Stevens said he was encouraged by that duo’s play together, as they are expected to be anchors of Boston’s second unit.
“I just think they bring a lot when they’re on the court together,” Stevens said, “and the energy they play with, the way that they can lift you on offense and defense.”
Forward Semi Ojeleye added 16 points and four rebounds. Center Aron Baynes hyperextended his left knee in the second quarter and did not return. Stevens said he did not know the severity of the injury, but that Baynes would be reevaluated.
Stevens said he rested the stars because the Celtics had a good workout Monday morning that allowed them to focus on their team and maintain a rhythm. Also, sitting the top players would give others a bigger opportunity against Philadelphia.
“I feel really good about where we are considering we’re 13 days in,” Stevens said. “I don’t think we’re by any means a finished product and I think we can get better.”
Unlike the others, Morris did not sit out to rest. The forward initially said he’d planned to play against the 76ers in Philadelphia last Friday, but the team has decided he is not quite ready to jump into real game action.
Stevens said he’s unsure when Morris will make his debut. The Celtics close the preseason on Wednesday night at Charlotte.
“For the most part I feel like he looks pretty good,” Stevens said of Morris. “That may be what he feels personally. But I think it’s partly just getting back into the routine and rhythm of things. He’s had a tough few weeks, obviously. And I think being cognizant of that’s important. And I think it’s a long season. As much as he wants to be out there, as much as everybody would love to see him out there, at the end of the day he’s got to progress appropriately so that he feels great when he does get back out there.”
Guard Marcus Smart is eligible to receive a contract extension prior to the Oct. 16 deadline, but Smart on Monday night said the Celtics have not had any contract discussions with him or his representatives.
“You’re seeing everybody else’s numbers and things like that,” Smart said, “so we’re just kind of waiting.”
The fourth-year guard is 23 years old but he is the most tenured Celtic. He averaged 10.6 points, 4.6 assists and 3.9 rebounds last season, although he made just 28.3 percent of his 3-point attempts. After the season, the Celtics encouraged him to slim down a bit, and the guard lost 17 pounds and has looked more spry and athletic during the preseason.
He remains hopeful the Celtics will seek an extension in the coming week. If the sides do not agree to a deal, Smart would be a restricted free agent next summer.
“I would love to [sign an extension],” Smart said. “I love Boston. I was drafted here. I’m the longest tenured Celtic. The city is great, this organization is great. I would love to be here. Like I said, we’re just waiting.”
Back with big dog
This was Amir Johnson’s first game back in Boston since he signed with the 76ers. The forward spoke positively about his two years with the Celtics, as well as his new team of budding stars.
“Another day in paradise, man, doing what I love to do,” he said. “It’s good to be back in Boston. My family’s here. My son was born here [June 3].”
Johnson has impressed the 76ers with his professionalism. He is expected to play alongside Joel Embiid at the power forward position. He said that prompted him to lose weight in the offseason to prepare to defend quicker players.
“The young dudes are just giving me more life,” Johnson said. “The way they push the ball up the floor, it just sets my mind in a different perspective.’’
“I have a spirit and knowledge to help the young guys; it’s a win-win. Just seeing the steps this team has took the last couple of years, getting draftees, getting better and better. Every team I go to is just on the cusp of getting better. In Boston we made the playoffs and in the second year went on to the conference [finals]. I feel like [this] team is on the same [path]. This is the year where we have goals and looking forward to making it to the playoffs. I feel like it’s just perfect.”
Celtics rookie Jayson Tatum, known for his offensive arsenal, continues to draw praise from Stevens for his developing skills as a defender. Tatum said he understood that improving his game on that end of the floor was essential.
“Yeah, because you’ve got Al, Kyrie, and Gordon, they’re all definitely scorers,” Tatum said, “so I know if I wanted to play, then defense is going to be how I got on the floor.”
Gary Washburn of the Globe staff contributed to this report.