The game hardly meant anything at all, except to the players who played it. Playoff seeds had already been set. Home court advantage beyond round one had most likely already been lost. Doc Rivers’ playoff rotation is mostly set in stone. But for the Boston Celtics who suited up tonight, competing against the Knicks served as an opportunity.
For some, the game was one last chance to earn a spot on Boston’s playoff roster for Sunday. Sasha Pavlovic had scored 12 points in 114 minutes before tonight; he then proceeded to score 19 in 35 minutes (and one nice shove to our old friend Billy Walker). Von Wafer had been in and out of Doc Rivers’ doghouse, learning Boston’s system and fighting to maintain his confidence despite never knowing how much, or even if, he would play; he had 14 points, six rebounds and five assists tonight, displaying a versatile, potent offensive game. Troy Murphy had underwhelmed for two (technically three) teams this season; he came to life in the second half (okay, he’s still on life support, but still).
For others, the game was an opportunity to work on flaws and develop rhythm. Jeff Green needed to prove himself, not only to potential suitors this summer but also to his own coach; for the second straight game, he was a plus rebounder. Glen Davis had struggled with his jumper for what seemed like an eternity; for the second straight game he found his range, hitting 8-14 tonight. Nenad Krstic has been up and down since being traded to Boston; he took advantage of his touches down low, contributing 13 easy points and six rebounds (and also a scuffle of sorts with Shawne Williams).
At least one Celtic knew tonight would undoubtedly be his final game played this season. And Avery Bradley made it count. For most of this year, Bradley had run Boston’s offense like a five-year old lost in a hay maze. He had impressed nobody, at least not with his offense, at least not during games. Then tonight happened. Suddenly, after 81 games passed with hardly a hint of Bradley’s future promise, confidence sprouted from his body like wings on a newly-crowned angel. His first play was a steal and slam dunk. From that point, Bradley made like Forrest Gump and just … kept … running.
You could say the contributions were hollow. That beating down the New York Knicks’ substitutes, in a game that didn’t affect the standings either way, meant very little in the grand scheme of an NBA basketball season. And maybe you’re right. Hell, you’re probably right. But to these players, especially Bradley, Wafer and Pavlovic, I imagine tonight will be a good one.
And who knows? Maybe the rhythm will continue into the playoffs. Maybe Jeff Green learned how to attack the glass. Maybe Glen Davis figured out his shooting woes. Maybe the Celtics can take something from these otherwise meaningless games.