BOSTON (CBS) – After the Celtics fell back to .500 on the season thanks to a three-game losing streak, Doc Rivers was looking to shake things up.
So he fine-tuned his starting five once again this season, starting guard Jason Terry for the 17th time this season, and center Jason Collins for the first.
Rivers has toyed with the starting lineup numerous times this season, switching back-and-forth from Terry and Courtney Lee at the two and giving Jared Sullinger a few starts over Bass at the four, but always had Kevin Garnett starting at center.
But with Collins at the five on Wednesday night, Garnett was able to shift back to the power forward spot, relieving the 36-year-old of a lot of pressure on the defense end.
“I thought Jason Collins, for getting one point and two rebounds, had an amazing impact on the game for us,” Rivers said after the Celtics’ 103-91 win. “Especially for Kevin; I thought Kevin enjoyed playing with him.”
“He’s a gutty veteran that knows coverages,” Garnett said of Collins. “JC Is what we call a solid guy; he not going to make mistakes and he knows his role… it’s good to see him get an opportunity and take advantage.”
Garnett On Jason Collins:
Collins’ contributions won’t appear in the stat sheet, but his presence was felt. It started on the Celtics’ first basket of the game, when he set hard screen to spring Rajon Rondo for a short jumper. More screens followed, and even more importantly, Collins clogged the lane and challenged shots on the defensive end.
But most important is he took pressure off Garnett, which is not something the other Celtics “bigs” have been able to do this season.
“He’s one of the better talkers on the team, defensively, and knows everything we’re doing,” Rivers said, adding that he’s often heard Collins telling players what they should have been doing as they came off the court this season. “I thought it made Kevin relax. He’s felt like he’s had to do so much, so it was good having Jason out there.”
“JC has guarded some of the premiere post guys in the league, he knows how to guard, he plays with an umph – if that’s even a word,” said Garnett. “What I mean by that is he plays power basketball; he’s firm. I think sometimes we lack that.”
Rivers applauded his team’s “disposition” on defense, and said that is largely attributed to Collins being on the floor. He was worried a little about the 34-year-old’s wind throughout the game, but had no doubt Collins would be ready to go despite getting less than an hours notice he would be in the starting five.
“It’s a great example, his preparation is good. You worry about his wind, but I wasn’t worried about his play,” said Doc. “He’s very in-tuned.”
Collins played hard until he fouled out with just over three minutes to go in the game, fittingly on a hard foul in the lane on Cavs forward Tristan Thompson. The starting lineup shuffle was one Rivers said he has been thinking about for some time, but was waiting for injured guard Avery Bradley to return to make the switch.
But after three straight uninspiring defensive efforts, Doc knew it was time to make the change. And for at least one night, he got the most out of his club on the defensive end.