The Celtics are starting to turn to Aaron Nesmith off the bench – Enterprise News


Greg Dudek
 
| The Enterprise

For most of his rookie season, playing time has been nonexistent for Aaron Nesmith. And when he did make it onto the court, the 6-foot-5 forward didn’t look like he belonged.

But Nesmith didn’t change his approach and bided his time while putting in extra work before practices to make sure he was ready for whenever his chance came.

Opportunities presented itself in the last two games as Brad Stevens chose to go with Nesmith as the first player off the bench, including in Tuesday night’s 112-99 win for the Boston Celtics over the Denver Nuggets at TD Garden.

The No. 14 overall pick by the Celtics in this past NBA draft showed he might not be a lost cause – as premature as that thought was – just 27 games into his professional career. Against the Nuggets, Nesmith, known as a long-range sharpshooter, displayed some of that ability by hitting 2-of-4 3-pointers en route to 9 points in 24 minutes.

But more importantly, Nesmith, who finished a game-high plus-20, provided a necessary spark with hustle plays to lead a strong bench effort as the reserves combined for 30 points.

“I come in every morning. I try to be the first one in the gym and I try to put shots up so when I get the opportunity, it’s like I never missed a minute,” Nesmith said. “I keep shooting with confidence and they’ll continue to fall and they’ll fall at a high rate.”

After Nesmith registered five DNP’s over a six-game stretch recently, he played a season-high 29 minutes in a loss to the Washington Wizards on Sunday. But despite the deflating loss, Stevens felt Nesmith was one of the team’s “bright spots.”

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He earned another look versus the Nuggets and Nesmith’s first trey of the game came from hiding himself in the corner and with Denver’s defense collapsing onto Jayson Tatum, Tatum found Nesmith for an open 3-pointer.

While Nesmith shot more off the dribble in his two seasons at Vanderbilt, the 21-year-old has adapted to more of a spot-up shooter role with the Celtics. But Nesmith isn’t always stationary as he made a higher difficulty 3-pointer when he came off a Tatum dribble handoff and quickly shot it over the outstretched arms of JaMychal Green.

It’s shots like that with many moving parts that show the natural talent Nesmith has to square his shoulders to the hoop in an instant and get off a quality look.

“He’s obviously becoming more comfortable with the speed of the game on the offensive end,” Stevens said. “I think that was probably the biggest transition for him and he’s handled that well. Credit to him, he’s just kept working. When a guy gets that opportunity you really want to see him succeed.”

Nesmith’s 3-point shooting is the biggest asset he can provide for a team yearning for such a player, which led the Celtics to select him as a lottery pick.

But Nesmith was more impactful in other areas to help the Celtics escape a world is falling feeling after Boston lost back-to-back games to two of the worst teams in the Eastern Conference in the Detroit Pistons and Washington Wizards.

After a Celtics turnover in the first quarter, Nesmith hustled back on defense and recorded a chase down block on R.J. Hampton that led to Brown hitting a 3-pointer on the ensuing trip back up the floor.

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Then early in the fourth quarter with the Celtics trying to hold off the Nuggets, Nesmith put his body on the line, extending out to for a loose ball and deflecting the ball off Zeke Nnaji right in front of Boston’s bench. Payton Pritchard made Nesmith’s stellar play count for more by following it up with a traditional 3-point play to push the Celtics lead to double digits.

“I think it was a momentum changer,” said Nesmith of that play. “Plays like that always get the team hyped. The team that turned it over, they kind of put their heads down and walk back on defense. We took advantage of that. That play straight into an and-one is pretty demoralizing for the opposing team.”

The rest of the bench followed Nesmith’s effort and made contributions to help lessen the load that has burdened Tatum and Brown as of late.

Robert Williams was especially effective in just 20 minutes, going 4-for-4 from the floor to score 8 points while grabbing 8 rebounds and tallying 5 steals. While Nikola Jokic, who exploded for 43 points, had Williams bite badly on a pump fake in the first half, Williams regrouped to play solid defense the rest of the way on the MVP candidate.

It’s those little things that Nesmith and Williams provided that truly made the difference. And with Nesmith still adjusting on the offensive end, he’ll need to continue to step up in those areas to consistently keep finding his way onto the court and making an impact.

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“I’m just trying to do whatever the team needs me to do at the moment,” Nesmith said. “In the game, sometimes we need energy. There’s no crowd, there’s no fans, for some guys it’s hard to get up and play with a lot of energy, so coming off the bench, just trying to be an energy boost, an energy guy. A guy that helps other guys play harder and a guy that helps instill winning.”



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