This was a meaningless preseason game, the second night of a back-to-back, against the NBA’s worst team, played in front of a crowd that would make Podunk look densely populated. It was no surprise, then, that the starters looked comatose in falling behind 28-19 by the end of the first quarter. Also no surprise? The bench turned the game around.
By the time the starters reentered, the Celtics were winning 56-54 and on their way to a 96-92 win. (Yes, I know the game was close at the end. But this is the preseason, folks; that was nothing more than garbage time.)
The catalyst to the second quarter turnaround? Delonte West. Watching West drill open jumpers and play freely in sync with Nate Robinson, it’s not difficult to imagine the C’s bench winning loads of games for them this season. As great as Tony Allen played last season, West brings a new dynamic (after years of hating his guts and wanting to strangle Doc every time he subbed TA into the game, it’s still weird to say Tony Allen played great). When Nate Robinson kicked the ball out to TA for an open jumper, it was time to hide yo kids, hide yo wife; a brick was coming. But when it’s West open in the corner? Buckets.
West can play point guard or off guard, create plays for himself or others, and always maintains control of himself and the game. When West has the ball, I feel completely calm, utterly confident. When Allen had the ball last season, I sweated profusely and gripped the remote control just in case I had to whip it angrily at the television. There’s a different feel, a better feel, to this season’s second unit. Even though West can’t defend small forwards like TA could, he brings so much to the table that I’m not even worried about it.
With West leading the charge, Nate Robinson lighting up the scoreboard, Marquis Daniels taking advantage of opportunities and Semih Erden, Big Baby and/or one of the O’Neal brothers holding down the fort inside, the C’s bench is versatile and loaded. And the main difference between this year and last? West. He brings Boston one more steady playmaker, one more accurate shooter, one more gritty defender.
Today was the first game the Celtics bench turned around this season. It won’t be the last.
(Click the jump for game notes)
- Game Notes:
- West was sent to the dressing room with a sore back. No big deal here, unless his spasms become a regular occurence. More likely, he’s just struggling to get back into shape after being confined to house arrest this summer.
- By focusing almost solely on West, I screwed over Glen Davis. He deserved higher praise. For the second straight night, Davis was phenomenal. He’s always been capable of changing games, but could never do it every night. Is he finally gaining consistency? (Please say yes, basketball gods.)
- I asked for improvement from Kevin Garnett. He then posted 5 points and 4 rebounds, to go along with 2-8 shooting. I watch him and find myself continuously muttering, “It’s only preseason. It’s only preseason. It’s only preseason.”
- Paul Pierce looks slimmer this season. He looks in great shape, and made a couple plays I’m not sure he could have last year.
- Semih Erden didn’t sprinkle himself with pixie dust before tonight’s game, but still impressed with the little things. He plays D, passes the ball well, and rebounds. I’m telling you, the guy’s got “SOLID ROLE PLAYER” tattooed straight across his forehead.
- Joe Smith still plays in the NBA? I wasn’t even sure he was still alive.
- It’s weird having Marquis Daniels be Employee Number Eight. Antoine Walker has lost his job, dignity and every cent he ever made. Can’t he at least keep his number?
- The new Employee Number Eight played well for the second straight night. He’s playing with confidence and getting to the hoop. Nothing remarkable, but Daniels has been steady. Keep it up, sir.
- One thing I love about Shaq so far? He doesn’t slow anything down. Actually, he’s gotten out on the break himself at times. If you felt Shaq would bog down the offense, think again. He seems to be content with just fitting in.
- One thing I don’t love about Shaq? His free throw shooting. Obviously, I’ve known for years that his free throws could kill a small dog. But when he’s on your team, it’s different. It’s kind of like that line from Hoosiers: “Look, mister, there’s two kinds of dumb. The guy that gets naked and runs out in the snow and barks at the moon, and the guy who does the same thing in my living room. First one don’t matter, the second one you’re kinda forced to deal with.”
- For the second straight game, Von Wafer was subbed in before Mario West Take that as you will. For the second straight game, neither player did much of anything.
- Anybody know a Maine realtor for Luke Harangody?
- I will forever be impressed by Rajon Rondo’s ability to control a basketball game. He didn’t score and took only a single shot, but he remained in complete control on the court. As always.