Jaylen Brown and Jayson Tatum weren’t the only Celtics from last year to enter this season with more on their plate. Brad Wanamaker played just 343 minutes in 2018-2019 as a third-stringer behind Kyrie Irving and Terry Rozier.
Irving was replaced by Kemba Walker. More importantly, Rozier left for Charlotte, leaving Boston’s backup point guard spot to a 30-year-old entering his sophomore campaign. Wanamaker was solid throughout the regular season, though limited minutes ensured that the stats rarely showed it.
With the Celtics tied 2-2 in their second-round matchup with the Toronto Raptors, Wanamaker’s played perhaps the best game of his career, enough to be noticeable in the box score and help Boston dominate with a 111-89 Game 5 victory.
Wanamaker had never scored more than 17 points in a regular-season game. His playoff career-high was just seven. In Game 5, he shot 5-of-9 from the field on his way to 15 points in just over 28 minutes.
“It was hard to take him out,” Brad Stevens says of Brad Wanamaker. “He was playing great.”
Ten of his fifteen came as Boston built a 27-point halftime lead. That total might have tied for just the third-most on the Celtics, but Wanamaker outpaced any single Raptor through the first 24 minutes.
The three triples Wanamaker hit in five attempts were the most he’s knocked down since January of 2019. His quick release was unleashed without hesitation, capitalizing on the looks Tatum’s gravity afforded him.
That early 3-point was all Wanamaker needed to get his game rolling. Even while sharing the court with Walker and Brown midway through the second, Wanamaker felt enough of himself to size up and drive it right at Pascal Siakam and finish over the agile All-Star.
Wanamaker finished Game 5 with more points than both Siakam and Kyle Lowry while also chipping in three rebounds, two assists, and a steal. He was a plus-13 as well.
“This is why Brad Stevens trusts Brad Wanamaker so much,” wrote John Karalis of Mass Live after the Game 5 win. “Wanamaker is unfazed by these moments, having played in big games in nasty environments overseas. Wanamaker has plenty of limitations, but his second quarter stint was huge because it kept the Raptors from making any kind of run.”
Wanamaker’s overall performance isn’t likely to come again anytime soon, the one-offs from “the other guys” you can find across every postseason. Nevertheless, Wanamaker helped bring Boston to within a game of their third trip to the Eastern Conference Finals in the last four years. That’s worth plenty, if only for the time before Game 6.