BOSTON (CBS) – For a team still struggling to find rotations that work, it’s important for the Boston Celtics’ bench to lend a helping hand on a nightly basis.
That was the case in Monday night’s 96-86 win over the Charlotte Bobcats, when Boston’s second-unit provided the Celtics with an offensive burst and solid play on the defensive end.
Gerald Wallace led the way in his return to Charlotte, where he played six seasons from 2004-10, scoring a season-high 17 points in 36 minutes– more than the entire Bobcats bench.
“The effort was good, and he’s a big part of that,” head coach Brad Stevens said of Wallace. “He’s contagious in the way he plays, and when he plays like that it makes it easier to follow.”
That play carried over to Boston’s other bench contributors throughout the game. Courtney Lee scored 11 points in 15 minutes and was a team-best plus-18, and Kris Humphries chipped in with four points and five rebounds in 16 minutes.
The most impressive of all of Boston’s bench contributors though was rookie point guard Phil Pressey, who Stevens credited with changing the game with his ball-pressure. The 22-year-old also dished out a career-high eight assists, four of which came in the fourth quarter, including a pair of passes that set up Lee three-pointers to help Boston build their double-digit lead.
In all, Pressey finished with two points, three steals and no turnovers in the winning effort.
“We were just moving the ball well and guys were finishing,” Pressey said after the win. “I felt like we played well as a team, and when the team plays well it takes a lot of pressure off yourself. I’m happy we got the W and I was able to contribute.”
Pressey and the rest of Boston’s supporting cast played so well on Monday that Stevens considered leaving them in for the stretch run. Avery Bradley played just nine minutes because of Pressey’s play, and had no problem with the youngster getting his minutes, according to Stevens after the game.
Pressey has been a solid contributor for Boston as they play without star point guard Rajon Rondo. He’s the only true-point guard on the roster, and though the knock on the undrafted guard is a raw offensive game, he’s been getting it done with his passes and ball control. He has 32 assists to nine turnovers on the season, and hasn’t had a multi-turnover game in his last six appearances.
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It’s important for Pressey to take advantage of the minutes while they are available, as his playing time will take a dip when Rondo does return (whenever that might be). At that point, he’ll be even further down the depth chart and his playing time will likely become scattered at best.
But until that comes, Pressey will take advantage of his on-the-job-training. And much like the rest of the bench, he’ll be ready to step up, whenever his number gets called.
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