LOS ANGELES - At the start of this four-game road trip, Doc Rivers was clear about what would make it successful for his team.
``We need our bench on this trip - it's going to be vital,'' said the Celtics coach, whose club was looking to defeat the Lakers in the finale last night to go 4-0.
Never was the solidity of the Celtics bench more apparent than during Saturday night's comeback win at Utah.
Kevin Garnett and Ray Allen were on the sideline when a group headed by Paul Pierce, but otherwise comprised of reserves, turned around the game.
Perhaps now, in a league where many have questioned the Celtics' actual depth, more will see how players like James Posey, Eddie House and Tony Allen fit into the scheme.
``Tony Allen played great defense,'' said House, who kicked off the fourth quarter with a 3-pointer that gave the Celtics their first lead since the first.
``He was denying people and he got his hands on a lot of balls. That was the habit we had to create for ourselves, because we weren't doing it in the first half.''
House hasn't been too shabby himself.
On this trip, the backup point guard, really a shooter who is being asked to occasionally handle the ball, has averaged 10.3 points on 11-for-20 shooting, including 6-of-12 from 3-point range.
Tony Allen, with perhaps his best all-around game of the season, had 10 points and three steals in 15 minutes against the Jazz.
By the end of the night, every Celtic felt a charge from how well this road trip has progressed.
Assistant coach Armond Hill was whistled for a rare technical foul during a fourth-quarter timeout.
Rivers smiled at the thought of this former Ivy League player at Princeton and coach at Columbia running afoul of the officials.
``It was definitely a lapse,'' Rivers said. ``Everybody was a little feisty, although I was surprised he got tech'd for that.''
As the Celtics have discovered, this trip has presented all kinds of twists, with last night's game in Los Angeles a good bet to top them all.
The Lakers came in off a home drubbing of the Jazz Friday night. Their 19-10 record included an 8-2 current win streak and the most home wins (11) of any team in the Pacific Division.
Coach Phil Jackson, tied with Red Auerbach with 938 career regular-season wins, was poised to push past the late Celtics patriarch in another statistical category.
``It's ironic,'' Pierce said. ``We're going to try and extend it by one more day, anyway.''
But once again, on the road against one of the hottest teams in the league, the Celtics had a bigger picture to worry about.
``We don't care because we haven't proven anything yet,'' Rivers said of the significance of the team's current run. ``We just need to play at this point. Everything else will take care of itself.''