The Boston Celtics handled the Milwaukee Bucks in convincing fashion earlier in the week by winning 99-83 on the road. Boston was without Marcus Smart, and Avery Bradley did not play at all in the second half, so other players on the team were called upon to step up, particularly off the bench.
Rookie R.J. Hunter was one of those players and he finally got his chance to shine against Milwaukee.
Hunter played a season-high 19 minutes against the Bucks, and he posted career highs with seven points and seven rebounds. He was all over the floor for the Celtics, and he affected the game in many ways by deflecting passes, gathering loose balls, and even adding one impressive block and a steal.
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He ended up with a plus-19 plus/minus rating and he was a part of the second unit for the Celtics that really put the game out of reach for the Bucks.
Hunter seemed to be an important part of the rotation against the Bucks, and that could be because both Smart and Bradley (out for second Half) were out. Hunter also played 20 minutes in the Celtics’ last game against the Indiana Pacers, and Smart was back in the lineup (minutes restriction).
Hunter posted five points, had two rebounds, one assist, and hit one three in Boston’s loss to the Pacers. He played more against he Pacers than against the Bucks by about one minute, which is not that big of a difference, but he is starting to get the opportunity to play for coach Brad Stevens.
What can’t Hunter do?
Hunter showed off his high basketball IQ, smooth shooting stroke, and great defensive awareness against the Pacers and the Bucks. There was not much that Hunter struggled with in the past two games. His size has not been a problem so far, but there was a few defensive possessions were he was bullied by a player much bigger than him against the Bucks.
He still needs to bulk up, but he has used his great footwork and hands to make up for his lack in weight.
He did not shoot lights out from the field in the past two games, but he shot pretty high percentage shots, and he was not afraid to shoot it at all, he also hit a three in both games, so he is starting to find his rhythm from deep.
There was one possession in the fourth quarter against the Bucks where Hunter air-balled a jumper, and the next possession out of a timeout, Stevens called a play for Hunter. Stevens showed last night that he is starting to trust the rookie, and he is realizing that Hunter has special shooting skills.
Hunter also displayed his great passing ability against in the past two games, although he was a little carless with some passes by having two turnovers over the Bucks, he recorded his first career assist against the Pacers. He had a great drop-off dish to a cutting David Lee when there was not much time left on the shot clock against Milwaukee.
Hunter just really understands the game.
Hunter seems to be Celtics’ fans favorite player to tweet about on Twitter. Everyone remembers him for his ridiculous shot in the NCAA tournament that made his dad fall off his stool, but now Hunter is making a name for himself in a Celtics’ uniform.
Hunter needs to play between 15-20 minutes a game with the second unit because of his shooting, defensive awareness, and high basketball IQ. He has done everything right in Boston so far and he can do no wrong according to many people on Twitter.
The Celtics still seem to be struggling from deep by shooting 23.3 percent last night and 30.1 percent for the season, which is 26th in the NBA, so it might be time to make Hunter a permanent part of the rotation with his shooting ability.
He has averaged 19.5 MPG in the last two games, but once Bradley and Smart are back fully for the Celtics, Hunter still needs to be averaging these type of minutes.
Hunter can do a lot for this team, he just needs a consistent amount of playing time in the rotation.