After the team landed back in Boston, Stevens called Larkin to talk about his role.

“He called me and he was like, ‘Listen, I don’t know what your situation is going to be like this year, I don’t know how much you’re going to play, and when you’re going to play, how many minutes it’s going to be. But I just need you to be ready whenever I call on you,'” Larkin said.

Larkin’s play was indeed sporadic from there, and he battled both a knee issue and illness that limited his time later in the season. But he always stayed ready for Stevens, and he believes many of the younger players did the same.

It’s a big reason why Boston won 55 games and earned the No. 2 seed in the East. And it’s a bigger reason why, despite all the injuries, the 11 healthy players believe they still can make plenty of noise in the postseason.

Steven Matz (L), 19.4 percent, New York Mets at St. Louis Cardinals: Matz remains a bit of an incomplete project: He’s produced 23 strikeouts in his first 18 innings of 2018 and has posted solid command rates in the past, but early on, he’s getting a bit fortunate with called strikes, as he’s induced an underwhelming 7.4 percent strikeout rate. His 4.42 ERA and five homers allowed show his early issues, which may partially stem from New York’s adjustment to catcher injuries. Still, St. Louis’ .292 wOBA against lefties entering Tuesday’s action ranks 23rd, and Matz deserves season-long interest in many mixed leagues.

Brown played a supporting role a season ago when the Celtics made a run to the Eastern Conference finals. Knowing how hard it was to impact the game at both ends of the floor in his first year, Brown marvels at what Tatum is doing.

“Last year was kinda eye-opening for me,” Brown said. “[Tatum is] ahead of the curve, I’ll say that for sure. … He’s one hell of a rookie.”

Tatum and Brown combined for 55 points overall during Sunday’s game, becoming only the second tandem age 22 or younger in league history to accomplish that feat in the postseason, according to the Elias Sports Bureau research. They nearly bested the record of 56 points by former Oklahoma City Thunder duo Kevin Durant and Russell Westbrook during the 2010 playoffs.

After a 21-year-old Durant’s performance that 2010 night against the Lakers — in his third season — TNT analyst Kenny Smith wondered if Durant might one day be better than LeBron James. The suggestion was openly mocked by some of his colleagues, but, in hindsight, Smith was right about Durant being one of the league’s best.
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