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Boston Celtics vs. Detroit Pistons: Game 4 Preview - What Happened to Leon Powe?

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In the playoffs Leon Powe has appeared in 15 of Boston’s 17 games. His minutes played per game are as follows (home games bolded):

24, 14, 6, 22, 23, 15, 20, 13, 28, 15, 6, 4, 0, 7, 8, 3, 0

Including Powe’s 2 DNPs he is averaging 14.1 minutes in Boston’s victories and 9.57 minutes in Celtics losses. On top of that Boston is 1-1 in games Powe has not ventured off the bench. At this point I can think of two relevant questions:

1. Why is Powe playing inconsistent minutes?
2. Do the Celtics need Powe?

As is the custom here at Green Bandwagon I’ve decided to initially tackle the first question with complete nonsense:

The Top Five Reasons Leon Powe Has Been Banished to the Bench

5. Powe told Jeremiah Rivers that Georgetown was a garbage program. As a result young Rivers chose to transfer, creating some turbulence within the Rivers family.

4. Powe makes Barry Bonds look like Grant Hill. Sorry I just read Love Me, Hate Me: Barry Bonds and the Making of an Anti-Hero.

3. Kevin Garnett hates Leon Powe.

2. In a tradition as old as the NBA itself P.J. Brown and Powe fought a win or go home cage match. Brown won due to a steel chair provided by Glen Davis in a thinly veiled attempt to win playing time. However, Powe refused to go home and everyone, KG included, was afraid to enforce that stipulation. Brown did get Powe’s minutes though.

1. Secretly Doc Rivers runs the Leon Powe Fan Site and he recently learned that fewer minutes for the former Cal standout, and a subsequent bitter post, led to increased traffic.

Of course there are probably better, more realistic reasons for why Powe is on the bench. Off the top of my head I can think of several:

- Rivers is not the first coach faced with the experience versus youth playing time dilemma. Experience often wins.

- Powe is prone to foul trouble at times. While the Celtics are certainly not concerned with Powe fouling out, they definitely don’t want to put the Pistons, an excellent foul shooting team, in the bonus.

- Brown has the ability to knock down the mid range jumper and the offense needs that at times.

- Way back in the Atlanta series Mike Fratello talked about Powe’s defensive missteps. From John Hollinger:

"TNT's Mike Fratello alluded to five defensive mistakes Powe made in Game 2 of the Atlanta game during a telecast, presumably because Doc Rivers told him this." - John Hollinger

Of those three the last one concerns me the most. I’ve learned a lot about team defense watching this Celtics team. Yes Garnett’s versatility, leadership and talent are important. But the bigger issue is that everyone has to buy in, bust, contest and rotate correctly. I’m reminded of something Dave from Blazers Edge said about Zach Randolph in an interview we did several months ago:

"Sometimes it only takes one guy in the right spot to submarine a team.  How long can four players bust their butts rotating on defense when the fifth guy just lets the opponent score?" – Dave from Blazers Edge.

Realistically I can’t compare Powe to Randolph. One is a ridiculous bad ass. The other is selfish, overpaid and entirely focused on scoring and occasionally rebounding. On top of that I never question Powe’s effort. But is he a defensive liability? Yes Powe is a beast on the boards. Furthermore, he attacks the rim and gets to the line. But this Celtics team wins because of defense. If Powe really is hurting the defense who am I to question Rivers’ decision? For what it's worth I don't think Powe is detrimental on D.

On to the second question - Do the Celtics need Powe? The obvious answer is, "Yes…if they lose." Seriously though, based upon Powe’s performance, starting with Kevin Garnett’s ab injury, he earned the right to play. Anytime another team’s second unit goes on a run with Powe on the bench I can’t help but think it would be different if he were out there. Say what you want about Sam Cassell and Eddie House getting inconsistent minutes. That’s more debatable. But Powe makes things happen. And I prefer to see him play over Glen Davis and at the very least at split time with Brown.

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via graphics.boston.com