Maybe the C's Do Have a Bench
One big question Celtics coach Doc Rivers had entering this season was how his bench would perform in a time of need. As of late, it has given him a positive response.
The Celtics are 5-2 in the seven games Kevin Garnett has missed with an abdominal strain. They defeated the reigning NBA champion Spurs, 98-90, Sunday without two starters (center Kendrick Perkins was out with a left shoulder strain). The bench is helping the team win now, and the Celtics are hoping it can be a bonus come playoff time, too.
"I didn't know about our bench, so everything was a question mark," Rivers said. "It's funny. At the beginning of the year, I kept telling [the media] when they weren't playing that Glen Davis is going to help us, [Leon] Powe is going to help us. And they are helping us."
With Powe and Brian Scalabrine starting, the bench had 32 points, 17 rebounds, 9 assists, and 6 steals in the win over the Spurs. Entering the game, the bench was averaging 40.6 points, 15.8 rebounds, 7.2 assists, and 3.6 steals, with a 48.7 3-point shooting percentage in the previous five contests, according to hoopsstats.com.
"We don't talk about [injuries] a lot," Rivers said. "We don't sit and hold a vigil or anything.
"We didn't tell Leon he was starting until he walked out on the floor doing the walkthrough. We just said, 'Leon, you're at 5.' We try not to make a big deal of it, because if we do, they will."
What stands out is that more than one or two guys are stepping up.
For example, Davis had 9 points, 8 rebounds, and 3 steals and played great defense against Tim Duncan in the fourth quarter Sunday, while James Posey played everything from small forward to center. Powe hit a buzzer-beating putback for an 88-86 win at Minnesota last Friday. During a 111-100 win over the Clippers Feb. 6, the bench scored 25 of 27 points in the fourth quarter and 44 points overall. Off the bench, Powe scored a career-high 25 and sharpshooter Eddie House added 20 in a 117-87 win at Miami Jan. 29 while usual reserve Tony Allen had 20 points, 6 assists, and 2 steals as a starter with Ray Allen out with the flu.
"The bench has been what has been getting us these wins, I believe," Paul Pierce said. "The starters are getting off to OK starts. But it's in the second quarter that the bench comes in and really gets the job done. They keep the lead, get the lead, or do something defensively to turn the game around."
Said Rivers, "I'd rather not have the injuries. But since you have them, for us, it allows our bench players to play more minutes. San Antonio, Detroit, Cleveland, they kind of know what they have. We still don't know, so any of those types of games are good for us."
Possibly the biggest surprise about the bench is the scoring. Tony Allen (20), Davis (20), House (20), and Powe (25) have all reached season highs since January. House is averaging a bench-best 8 points per game and shooting 42.9 percent from 3-point range; Posey is averaging 7.1 points and 4.3 rebounds; and Tony Allen is averaging 6.5 points and shooting a team-best 44.1 percent from 3-point range.
Asked what his mentality is coming off the bench, Davis said, "Know my role and do something to help the team win."
Come playoff time, the role of the bench usually takes a dip. With television stretching out the schedule, there are more off-days, and even during games, TV timeouts mean more time for starters to rest. But with injuries and foul trouble always a possibility, the Celtics' bench is becoming more and more confident that it can pay dividends when needed.
"Guys are stepping up each and every night, new guys, and it's good for us that our young guys are more than willing to step up and having the chance to do it," Pierce said. "It's going to be really good for us in the long run."
Said Tony Allen, "The focus has been so much on Kevin Garnett, Paul Pierce, and Ray Allen. So us guys coming off the bench are nothing but attributes to the team."