Trailing 75-72 heading into the fourth quarter, Boston's second unit for the game - made up of Nate Robinson, Tony Allen, Marquis Daniels, Glen Davis, and Shelden Williams - proceeded to outscore their Detroit counterparts 14-4 over the course of the first three minutes and 49 seconds of the quarter, capped off by a Robinson three-pointer (one of his three three-pointers in the final frame) at the 8:11 mark.
Rasheed Wallace (starting in place of the flu-stricken Kendrick Perkins) replaced Williams at the 7:16 mark of the quarter, and Robinson added his third and final three of the period just nine seconds later for good measure, giving Boston an 89-81 lead. His three polished off a much needed 17-6 overall run to start the final frame.
It's typically the NBA norm for teams to hope their benches won't waste their starters' initial efforts, but last night, it was the Celtics hoping the starters wouldn't waste the bench's pristine effort at the outset of the fourth quarter. Indeed, the key word that must be stressed is effort, for the bench gave a helluva lot of it in the first five minutes of the fourth.
At long last we're finally starting to talk about Glen Davis' play more than we are his seemingly never-ending antics and head-scratching nicknames. The man appears hungry for more than food these days, as evidenced by his relentless aggression last night. He took 14 shots, made five of them, teamed nicely with Williams on the glass (he kept more balls alive than he secured), and drew an important charge on Ben Gordon with 6:12 remaining.
Williams, Davis's front court mate, seeing his first action in what seems like weeks, finished with a respectable six points and four rebounds in 16 minutes. While he and Davis might, at times, make for an undersized front court pairing, if they can continue to contribute the hustle and energy that was on display last night, they'll surely negate any size they might be giving up. Even if Williams fails to find consistent minutes from here on out, Doc Rivers must know by now he has a guy he can rely on, if nothing else.
What's interesting is the noticeable increase in effort from the second unit, on a night when Rasheed Wallace wasn't a part of it. The pine guys came locked and loaded with a killer instinct, yet the starters (with Wallace at center) - who held an eight-point lead with 7:49 left in the third quarter - failed to close out the Pistons heading into the fourth. Is there a correlation there? Is Wallace indeed the anti-killer instinct parasite that's plaguing this team at times right now? Perhaps.
Nate Robinson, though, stole the show (while apparently utilizing an offensive set he ran while with the New York Knicks). While Tony Allen and Marquis Daniels did many of the little things that contributed to the bench's overall success (Daniels was a stabilizer of sorts for this group - the elder statesman, whose presence alone seemed to evoke a needed calmness in the second unit's execution.), it was Robinson who threw the daggers. Nine of his 14 points came in the fourth, all on three-pointers. His first with 11:11 remaining brought the Celtics within a point (77-76), and then his second - intersected by two Davis buckets and a Williams slam - put Boston up 86-79 with 8:11 remaining. He did what he came here to do, and on top of that, he hopped up on his Inspector Gadget spring-like feet and messed around on the boards, all while serving as a general pest in Detroit's personal space. As a whole, Boston's bench mustered 39 of the team's 105 points.
The formula worked. The bench wanted it, and they went out and got it. Let's see if Doc continues to utilize that five-man unit as the regular season rolls along.