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Bench Earns Redemption With Fourth Quarter Run

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A Daily Babble Production

When the reserve-dominant lineup of Eddie House, Stephon Marbury, Ray Allen, Glen Davis and Mikki Moore stepped onto the court to start the fourth quarter in a 70-60 game, last night's Clippers-Celtics contest remained far from over.  I presumed that I was thinking wishfully when I turned to The Guru and said, "Let's hope these guys come out with just enough this time to eliminate any need to see the starters again."

That's exactly what they did.

One wouldn't have presumed as much given the second unit's prior appearance in this game.  After a 31-18 first quarter, the Celts began the second period with Paul Pierce and four reserves on the court and promptly allowed a 14-5 run that led to the reentry of Kendrick Perkins and Ray Allen.  Even with four starters back on the floor toward the end of the quarter, the Celts struggled to regain their energy level from the start and battled to make it to recess with a two-point lead.

During that second quarter, the team not only failed to find any semblance of offensive rhythm (eight points in the first 11 minutes) but also allowed the Clips to run lay-up lines at the other end.  We'll spare you the gory details beyond that because it was unadulterated lethargy.  The Celts seemed to stop getting after it with the intensity they brought early in the game.

But the second half proved a different story, not only for the starters but for the reserves as well.  Despite a sluggish start to the third quarter, the Celtics took over during Kevin Garnett's final minute on the floor (how nice was it to see that Raj-to-KG lob play again?) and jumped back out to a 10-point lead to end the period.

This time, the bench entered determined to pay the first unit back for killing its earlier momentum.  Despite seeing the lead dip to five in the first two possessions of the quarter, the reserves and Ray Allen put the Clippers away for the evening over the next four minutes.

Everybody on the floor contributed to an out-of-nowhere steamrolling.  It began with Eddie House making the rare play off the dribble, navigating from the right wing down to the baseline for a baby jumper.  Glen Davis followed with two free throws.  Mikki Moore stayed on top of Mike Taylor just long enough to force a shot clock violation after an LA trey attempt didn't hit the rim.  Two possessions later, Moore found Stephon Marbury across the court with the shot clock dying.  Steph responded with his only bucket of the night, a well-behind-the-line three from the right side.

All of that provided just the warm-up for the two best plays of the entire sequence.  Ray Allen attacked hard from the right wing, got to the lane and not only switched hands to evade a defender en route to the bucket but finished the lefty lay-in while drawing a foul.  His play around the rim has impressed me more each time I've watched him over these last two seasons.

But seconds later, Allen saw himself one-upped by one of his larger teammates.  The Infuriated Infant, who had one of the most tolerable 1-for-11 shooting games I've ever witnessed, snuck around his man to steal an entry pass from Steve Novak with his left hand.  The sizable man proceeded to lead the break, complete with a suave behind-the-back dribble before dishing to Eddie House on the left wing for the three that brought the New Garden to eruption level.

Timeout, Clippers.  But it came after a 13-0 run to push the lead to 18 with less than seven minutes to play.  Ball game.

Allen left for good before the five-minute mark.  Kendrick Perkins went to the scorer's table once during the quarter but returned to his seat without entering the game.  Kevin Garnett completed his night with his eight-minute stretch to start the third quarter.  Paul Pierce and Rajon Rondo never made the slightest move toward setting foot on the floor in the final period.

The Celtics' starters took this game over late in the third quarter, but the second unit broke it wide open in the fourth.  Refreshing.

Other musings from a less-than-pretty 90-77 victory:

  • One more time, just because we went spent much time emphasizing the positives of the bench's contribution in the fourth quarter: The Celtics' play in the second quarter of this game was an atrocity, and it didn't get much better through the first half of the third.  As the coaching staff told CSN's Greg Dickerson at halftime, the Celts got outworked in the second quarter, plain and simple.  Despite the ease of the fourth quarter, the double-digit margin is a bit misleading simply because of how sloppily the team played for a quarter and a half in the midst of this game.
  • CB member amenhotep04 made a valid point about the Celts' play inside last night: "Imagine what the score would have been if someone other than Ray could have made a layup."  While that may ring a bit hyperbolic (Rajon Rondo had a couple of nice finishes inside), this stands especially true for Kendrick Perkins.  Shooting 55 percent from the field is nice, but Perk's 5-for-9 line on its own doesn't note that each of his four misses came on bunnies around the rim.  He even missed a fifth going up wide open after the whistle on a play when Rajon Rondo committed an offensive foul as he dished off to Perk.  Large Baby had his share of troubles down low as well.  Finishing inside needs to be a priority.
  • While we're on the topic of Baby and missing, for a guy who shot 1-for-11 from the field, I had few complaints.  For the most part, he got good looks at the rim and took shots he has shown himself capable of hitting.  They just didn't fall.  It was good to see him continue to look confident and even better that he found ways to contribute when his shot wasn't falling from the field.  He knocked down his foul shots, played good defense and came up with four steals as well as an acrobatic block on the fast break.  Nice work.
  • Another note on confidence and mid-range shooting: Rajon Rondo stepped into elbow-area jumpers when defenders opted to go under screens, and he made the Clips pay with three made buckets from there.  No hesitation either.
  • Ugliest play of the night: Kendrick Perkins trying to either shoot a jumper or throw an alley-oop to Mikki Moore (???) from the right wing.  The ball missed the basket by several feet and wound up out of bounds.  Boogah.
  • As Master Po noted after the game, Paul Pierce made two strange plays in transition, opting both times to make an extra (and likely unnecessary) pass in the lane when he had enough space to take another step or dribble and finish hard around the rim.  Odd.
  • The Guru punctuated the first simultaneous on-court appearance of Stephon Marbury and Zach Randolph with "What a meeting of the minds!"  He makes these games that much more fun to watch.
  • Kevin Garnett doesn't look to be quite himself yet at the defensive end (the Clips had a couple of buckets early on that seemed too easy inside), but he sure looks smooth offensively: 5-for-5 from the field and no turnovers in 18 minutes.  He finished the aforementioned alley-oop as well as a couple of good moves for baby jumpers in the post.
  • Doc gave us a pleasant surprise with Bill Walker getting some non-garbage minutes in the second quarter.  Though Bill didn't make much of an impact, he did hit a jumper and then returned in the fourth quarter to punctuate a Celtics route with an emphatic dunk for the second game in a row.  Enjoyable end-of-game ritual.