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) Read more »