About an hour before tipoff against the Hawks, Jrue Holiday was ruled out. He’d taken the court earlier than usual to warm up and test out the right ankle he sprained on Wednesday against Milwaukee, but after about 20 minutes, decided he was a no-go.
That meant a certain member of the ‘stay-ready’ group — the Celtics bench players who don’t have a regular spot in the rotation — was due for increased minutes.
Last night, Dalano Banton got the start for the fourth time in his young NBA career. Previously, he’d only appeared in six games for the Celtics, usually in garbage time. He only hit double-digit minutes once, in a blowout victory against the Wizards.
But, here was Banton, starting the ball game, playing critical fourth-quarter minutes, and making an impact. Joe Mazzulla said after the game that in the absence of players like Holiday and Kristaps Porzingis, who is out with a calf strain, he’s glad to give guys who are not always in the rotation the chance to play and execute.
“I thought Dalano’s defensive instincts and his defense was really good,” Mazzulla said. “I thought he made some good plays in the seam. He’s got a really good feel for the game.”
Banton finished the game with 8 points, 5 rebounds, 4 fouls, and an assist. He made a couple of notable mistakes — like fouling DeAndre Hunter on a corner three-point shoot midway through the fourth — but also played with energy and hustle.
Each time he made a big play, whether a put-back layup midway through the third or a breakaway finish, the Celtics bench cheered raucously, recognizing he was capitalizing on a limited opportunity.
Celtics bench - led by Luke Kornet- celebrates Dalano Banton’s putback layup.— Noa Dalzell (@NoaDalzellNBA) November 27, 2023
Banton has 4 pts, 3 rebounds so far in his first career start for the Celtics. Celtics up 78-58 with 7:46 to go in Q3. pic.twitter.com/0YKI6za1lG
“DB’s been in this league for a little while,” Tatum said. “He knows how to play the game at a high level. He’s part of that stay-ready group. They come in every day, they get extra reps, they stay conditioned, work on their reads, so that in times like these, when guys are in and out of the lineup, we can just plug certain guys in and we can keep it rolling. He did well tonight - he competed, made some big plays for us, and I was happy to see him get an opportunity tonight.”
Three hours before tipoff, Banton participated in a highly competitive 3v3 half court basketball game alongside Lamar Stevens and assistant coach Amile Jefferson. He guarded Svi Mykhailiuk for large stretches of that game, and at times switched onto Oshae Brissett or Jordan Walsh. Banton was the only one of those guys to get any minutes in last night’s game, but all five of them were hustling, diving on the floor, locking each other down on defense — staying ready in case their name was called.
Lamar Stevens, Dalano Banton, and Amile Jefferson just beat Jordan Walsh, Oshae Brissett and Svi in some intense pregame 3v3.— Noa Dalzell (@NoaDalzellNBA) November 26, 2023
Losers had to do five push-ups. pic.twitter.com/NXBskJazuz
“I give a lot of credit to those guys, the stay-ready group,” Tatum said. “They work their butts off. It’s tough not knowing when your number is going to be called, but just having to be prepared.”