BOSTON (CBS) – The Boston Celtics have evened things up with the Miami Heat in the Eastern Conference Finals, thanks in large part to the fact they are getting some production off their bench.
While the second unit has been non-existent at times, other than their “flexing” celebrations, they have showed up against the Heat. They will have to continue to do so if the Celtics want to punch their ticket to the NBA Finals.
After contributing just seven points in the 53 minutes of play in Game 2, the C’s bench scored 19 points in the C’s Game 3 victory, and 11 points in Sunday’s Game 4. After tallying just five points combined in the first two games Keyon Doolin found his stroke, going 6-for-9 from the field for 17 points the past two games.
“It’s been that kind of series,” Dooling said after his 10-point performance in Game 4. “I’ve had some open looks and fortunately I’ve been able to knock some down.”
Dooling and the rest of the second unit have also given Boston some solid defense, no easy task against the Heat. Dooling frustrated Dwyane Wade at times in the second quarter Sunday night. Mickeal Pietrus, although frustrating with his erratic and poke-poke-poke style, has been spelling Paul Pierce on LeBron James, or simply taking over the task when the C’s captain has fouled out. Even Marquis Daniels, who went stretches of the regular season where there was no need to remove his warm-ups, is pitching in. He’s seen 32 minutes in the last two games, and was even tabbed with guarding Wade on the potential game-winning shot as time expired in overtime on Sunday.
But for head coach Doc Rivers, he just wants the energy his bench brings to the floor.
“We’re not going to, on most nights, outscore the other bench but we can stop (them from) scoring,” Rivers said Sunday night. “Our second unit comes in and gives unbelievable effort and energy. I think in a lot of ways it inspires our starting unit when they see it.”
Gorman On Toucher & Rich: Pressure Is On The Heat
“I think they’ve been great for us. Their play speaks for itself, not just on the court but off the court,” Rajon Rondo said of the bench. “Those guys have been great veteran leaders coming in and showing the young guys how to do it. They haven’t played many minutes in the playoffs, but when their names have been called they’ve been delivering.”
“There are other ways to affect the game outside of scoring,” said Dooling. “Doc said this before the playoffs started, ‘when what you do isn’t working, what can you do to help the team?’”
Before the strike-shortened season began, the Celtics bench looked to have some solid depth with the likes of Dooling, Jeff Green, Chris Wilcox, Brandon Bass and Avery Bradley. But Green and Wilcox were both lost to heart ailments, Bass was thrust into the starting lineup when Kevin Garnett made the move to center, and Bradley made the same move when Ray Allen started to battle his ankle ailment.
With their roles changing on a day-to-day basis, the Boston bench has had to overcome adversity all season. Dooling, who has been referred to as “reverend” for his rousing pre, post, and in-game speeches, says overcoming the odds is not a problem for this group.
“We’re built for adversity,” said the 12-year veteran. “We’ve gone through so much our personality has taken on this resilient, grind-it-out type team. That’s been our personality all year.”
“It starts with our leadership,” he said. “Doc Rivers will make you want to run through a wall. Kevin Garnett gives it all every night. We have a bunch of gritty guys. Our super stars are gritty; they’re not like other super stars. They wear their hard hat every day, and come to work. They set a tone and a tempo for our whole team.”
The Celtics will need all they can get from the bench in Game 5 with the series shifting back to Miami. The Heat will have their home crowd and go back to getting their home calls (as the Celtics got in Boston). Dooling, Daniels, and Pietrus have done their part the last three games, but where the contributions need to come from — and haven’t — are the front court. Ryan Hollins and Greg Stiemsma are looking like D-Leaguers this series, increasing Doc Rivers’ stress level even more whenever Kevin Garnett has to take a seat.
Thomsen On DA Show: The Chris Bosh Effect
While it will be the starters doing most of the dirty work in Game 5, the Celtics will need all the help they can get from the bench. Whether it’s some shooting from Dooling, defense from Pietrus and Daniels, or any hint of life from their front-court backups, the C’s need continued contributions from their second unit.