Shane Larkin arguably played his best game in a Celtics uniform against the Nuggets Wednesday night.
Logging 17 minutes off the bench, Larkin went 6-for-6 to score 14 points — one of five Celtics to reach double digits. The 25-year-old has appeared in 21 games this season and is making the most of each opportunity. His contributions won’t necessarily manifest themselves in the form of baskets, but that mindset wasn’t always the case.
Larkin, who played basketball overseas prior to signing with Boston, was averaging 13.1 points, 5.7 assists, and 28.9 minutes in EuroLeague. With the Celtics, he is averaging 3.6 points, 1.3 assists, and 10.8 minutes — while still having an impact.
“I definitely have a new mindset now when I come into games,” he said. “Not every night is going to be 10-plus points, five-plus assists, three-plus rebounds, whatever. Every night isn’t going to be the same thing. Sometimes it’s just going to be six minutes picking up full-court, wearing down point guards. Sometimes it might be 10 minutes coming in, guarding guys off of screens.”
“Early in my career, I thought, ‘I gotta score, I gotta do this,’” Larkin continued. “But now, it’s come in there with energy and impact that game in other ways, offense and defense. It’ll come to me.”
The point guard recently endured five straight games with no playing time. In the five games prior to that stretch, he shot a dismal 1-for-15 from the field. The shooting slump doesn’t faze Larking, however, who emphasizes the importance of playing with confidence regardless of the circumstances.
“I know I can score, I know I can get assists, I know I can play on the offensive end,” he said. “I always feel like I’m going to make my shots. Some nights you don’t, some nights you do. Even when I was going through that slump, I still felt like my shot was going to fall when I shot it.”
When he’s on the court, Larkin isn’t looking to make the flashy plays. He said he knows he has to be ready to capitalize on each opportunity, but he doesn’t try to over complicate things when it comes.
“Just be yourself, play your game, and don’t press,” he tells himself. “Make the easy play, the simple play, and it’s going to come to you. You did the work in the summer, you did all the work to get here, and now you’re here. Everyone knows you can play. But when you get out here, just make the simple plays. Don’t press, just be relaxed, and go play your game.”
As for the biggest difference he’s noticed between his play in Boston and other cities?
His defense, which isn’t surprising coming from a player on the team with best defensive rating in the NBA.
“I’m going to go in there and I’m gonna make it hell for whoever dribbling this ball up the court and on defense. I’m going to twist and turn and make havoc for everybody,” Larkin said. “That’s the biggest difference.”