Uh-oh. That’s the one response I could muster to the lineup Doc Rivers used to begin yesterday’s second quarter. Avery Bradley running the point? Von Wafer at the two? Marquis Daniels, Glen Davis, and Shaq rounding out the unit? I know injuries have started to take a toll on the Boston Celtics, but still: Where does the insanity end? Where does it end????
Well, the lineup I thought was insanity actually changed the game. For the better, even. By the time Ray Allen and Nate Robinson entered the game with 7:03 left in the second quarter, breaking up the eclectic fivesome, the Celtics had gone on a long, 8-2 run. Yes, the Nets only scored two points in five minutes. The Celtics would go on to outscore New Jersey in the period, 30-12.
Instead of showing its inexperience, the odd crew played inspired basketball. The group didn’t exactly set the world on fire with offense — hell, it took the Celtics two minutes to score a point. But a two-minute drought doesn’t look so bad when your opponent takes almost five minutes to get on the board.
“The second unit, in the second quarter, changed the whole game,” Doc Rivers told the Boston Globe. “They went five possessions and they couldn’t score, but the other team couldn’t score and it was really good for them to see that. You don’t have to score. If you keep getting stops eventually, the dam will break and you’ll start scoring and it happened for them. That’s a good thing for all those young guys.”
The defensive effort was led by Avery Bradley. A rookie, leading the way defensively. Bradley showed his rough edges with the ball (he shot 2-7 from the field), but he is clearly an electric on-ball defender. Before the season, Bradley’s AAU coach gushed about the guard’s defense. (Boston Globe)
“Avery’s one of those guys, he puts people in a phone booth,’’ Ward said. “He could guard you so tight that you didn’t even want the ball no more. Avery Bradley makes the best ball handlers on the other team give up the ball. You see point guards give the ball to the center, and make the center bring the ball up.
“You know the definition of harassment?’’ Ward continued. “If you’ve got that ball, he’s going to harass you. He’s not going to harass you for one trip up the court, he’s going to do it for 48 minutes.’’
In his first extended stint of NBA playing time, Bradley’s lock-down ability didn’t disappoint. If you didn’t know what Bradley’s coach meant when he said, “He puts people in a phone booth,” just re-watch yesterday’s game. To say the least, it’s tough to get past Avery Bradley. Tommy Heinsohn just about drooled every time Bradley dropped into a defensive stance.
But Bradley wasn’t the only inexperienced Celtic who impressed. Von Wafer did a nice job, too, even if his defense wasn’t nearly as captivating as his rookie teammate’s. Wafer’s defensive highlight was jumping a passing lane for a steal, but it was his consistency that stood out. As Rivers told ESPN Boston, “Von buying in, it was really good.” Really good, indeed.
Glen Davis inspired with his energy, but that’s normal so I won’t discuss it in much detail. Really, I almost feel bad discussing individuals. The unit’s staunch defense was a result of five men working as one. Rotations, hustle, all that jazz.
“[The second unit] played hard for every second and every minute,” Nate Robinson, who earned a rare start, told ESPN Boston. “There were no letdowns. We’re up 30 points and Luke Harangody is diving on the floor for loose balls and Avery Bradley is forcing jump balls. That’s what separates us from other teams, just coming and playing with no egos.”
And yes, it was the much-maligned second unit playing so well. For a few weeks, I wanted to rip my hair out of my head every time I watched the substitutes play. Now, there’s hope for the second unit, although there is one catch.
“We’ve got to keep doing that not only against the Nets,” Von Wafer told the Globe, “but even better teams around the league.’’