SACRAMENTO, Calif. — Late in the Celtics’ game against the Trail Blazers on Friday night, point guard Terry Rozier was trying to fight through a screen when his right thumb was bent farther backward than thumbs are supposed to bend.
His hand was wrapped with ice after the game, and on Sunday night, after the Celtics faced the Kings, the thumb was covered with a large bandage. When it was pointed out to Rozier that it had not appeared to affect him against Sacramento, he smiled.
“Guess not,” he said.
The third-year point guard was devastating on Sunday, scoring a career-high 33 points and leading the still-undermanned Celtics to a 104-93 win, their third in a row. Boston once again overcame a double-digit deficit, but this 10-point hole seemed to be almost met with a shrug compared to some of the larger ones that preceded it.
Rozier drilled 8-of-12 3-pointers, falling one short of tying Boston’s single-game franchise record. He did not attempt a 3-pointer over the final eight minutes of the game, and he said he was unaware he was so close to making history. If he had known, he said with a smile, he would have fired up at least five more.
“My confidence level is sky high,” Rozier said. “Obviously I put a lot of work in for myself, but a lot of credit goes to my teammates and coaches, because they believe in me every game and they make it happen, from getting me open, drawing up plays and stuff like that. So my job is easy. All I’ve got to do is try to make the shot.”
The Celtics welcomed back an important piece Sunday, as Jaylen Brown returned after being sidelined since March 8 because of a concussion. He had three fouls and three turnovers during his first six-minute stint, but then regained his rhythm quite quickly, finishing with 19 points on 6-of-10 shooting.
Brown’s injury occurred when he took a hard fall after completing a two-handed slam in the third quarter of the Celtics’ road win over the Timberwolves. The athletic, ferocious dunker later said that his mother had asked him to stop dunking. He made no promises there, but had planned to ease back into things.
Then this game began, and Brown threw down three dunks. But one fast-break opportunity — the one most similar to the one on which he was injured, he elected to go up for a layup.
“That’s probably what I’m going to say [to my mom],” Brown said. “Like, ‘Hey you saw that one, right, Mom? I could have [dunked] but I didn’t.’”
Although the Celtics added Brown, they lost forward Marcus Morris for at least this game, as he sat out with a sore ankle. Morris had carried the offense in several games recently, but this team once again showed that it can scrape out wins regardless of its available personnel.
“We have a team full of guys that are resilient,” Brown said. “All year guys have missed time and gone stretches without playing, and we’ve managed to win 50 games this year with nine games left. I think we have a really good team, and when the pieces start coming back and the puzzle comes together, hopefully we can make a really deep run.”
Celtics coach Brad Stevens said that Morris could possibly return to face the Suns on Monday, but Boston is all but locked into the No. 2 spot in the Eastern Conference standings, so there will be no reason to push it.
Kyrie Irving (knee) and Marcus Smart (thumb) are not expected to return before the end of the regular season, so when Morris returns this will essentially be the group that Boston closes the season with.
“I haven’t seen a lot of angst when guys go in,” Stevens said. “Guys just have to be ready to play. If there’s ever a better example of you have to be prepared, it’s this year, because every one of those guys tonight who played meaningful minutes will play a meaningful role in the playoffs. We have to be ready.”
The Celtics were clinging to an 88-86 lead midway through the fourth quarter when they crafted their game-defining 9-0 run. Brown started it with a jumper and then coasted in for a layup after a steal. Rozier reached his career high with a 15-footer before Al Horford made it 97-86 with a 3-pointer.
The Celtics made 55.6 percent of their shots, including 12-of-22 3-point attempts. Horford finished with 14 points and 8 rebounds.
The Celtics made 10-of-18 shots but trailed 27-24 after one quarter, in large part because of their six turnovers and spotty defense. These trends did not shift in the second quarter, either. In fact, Boston’s field goal percentage was even better, as it made 11-of-16 shots (68.8 percent), but the Kings made five 3-pointers in the quarter and took a 60-52 lead to the break.
In the third quarter, Boston’s accuracy improved even more, except this time it was accompanied by defense. The Celtics trailed, 64-56, before they unspooled a 12-2 run that included three 3-pointers by Rozier. The last three in that rally gave the Celtics a 68-66 lead.
Even when Rozier’s plays looked like they were going to come undone, though, he rescued them. With just under nine minutes left in the game he had the ball knocked away before he regained possession and drained his eighth three of the game. Less than two minutes later he carved through the lane for a more traditional three-point play, helping the Celtics to an 88-82 lead.
“Going into the game I just got out there and just have a lot of fun,” Rozier said. “I’m blessed to be in the position I’m in, so I try not to stress myself out. I just slow my mind down and go out there and just play.”