BOSTON – Five minutes into the season, the Boston Celtics had little choice but to embrace a "next man up" mentality.
Since then, this approach to the game has been fine-tuned and is now at a point where it doesn't seemingly matter who is missing from the Celtics lineup.
Short-handed or fully stacked, this team continues to find ways to win, with the latest victory being a 97-90 win over the Dallas Mavericks which came with a pair of key Celtics players out.
Marcus Morris (left knee rehabilitation) did not play after experiencing more soreness than usual, earlier in the day. And Jaylen Brown (right eye inflammation) was out as well, leaving the Celtics extremely thin at the wing position.
Boston went deeper into its bench than usual against the Mavericks, with rookies Guerschon Yabusele and Abdel Nader getting spot duty.
And to their credit, they each contributed with Yabusele draining a 3-pointer while dishing out three assists in six minutes, 35 seconds. And Nader, last year's D-League (now Gatorade League) Rookie of the year, also hit a 3-pointer along with tallying a steal and a blocked shot while logging seven minutes and one second of playing time.
"They both did a pretty good job," said Celtics head coach Brad Stevens. "And those guys work really hard. I mean, nobody's in the gym more than Nader. And it's good to see that first shot go down and … then to make a steal and to make some plays in there. And then Guerschon, I thought, did a good job of kind of playing through him. We need to be able to play through him (Yabusele) in the high post and top of the key, kind of like we do Al (Horford) when he's in the game, and I thought he did a pretty good job of that."
During the Celtics' shoot-around prior to the game, one of the main topics discussed was the importance of all 11 players in uniform, being ready to play and play well.
"We always have to have that 'next man up' mentality," said Terry Rozier who had 12 points and nine rebounds off the bench. "We're just covering for one another; we're a team. We're pros for a reason. You put in all this hard work, you have to be ready."
Al Horford was pleased with the Celtics' backups remaining professional and staying ready when their opportunity to play came.
"Those guys are working harder than pretty much any of us every day, because they're in the gym getting extra shots, extra conditioning," said Horford who had 17 points to go with eight rebounds and eight assists. "It's good to see them get rewarded. I was happy to see our bench guys able to get some minutes."