During the preseason, when talk of 70 wins and an NBA title didn't seem too far-fetched for the Celtics, the second unit regularly gave the starters all they could handle in practice, so much so that many said it was a pretty even matchup.
On Tuesday night in Sacramento, it wasn't even close. Give it up for the scrubs.
In a 95-92 win over the Kings, the Boston bench provided 44 points, the bulk of which came in a dominant second quarter stretch that allowed the C's to take control of the game early.
"Big shout to the bench," said Kevin Garnett. "Without them I'm not sure we could do it."
While so much attention has been paid to the injuries of Garnett and Paul Pierce and how they disrupt the starting five, the bench has struggled even more to find that preseason form.
Marquis Daniels missed 29 games with a thumb injury and Glen Davis sat out 27 with one of his own. Those two did not play together in a regular-season game until just before the All-Star break. Rasheed Wallace was out for three games and both he and Tony Allen were often forced to fill in for the banged-up starters, robbing the second unit of its key cogs.
Finally, those four and Eddie House — the quintet that made the superstar-laden starting lineup look beatable back in October — is on the same page. And Daniels, according to head coach Doc Rivers, is finally able to take on the captain's role which was envisioned for him.
"The one thing I like with Marquis in that unit is he controls the ball," Rivers said. "I like how he has control over that team."
Rivers pointed to one particular stretch Tuesday night in which Daniels saw the C's toss up four straight shots from at least 23 feet out before making an effort to get it inside. The versatile swingman first grabbed an offensive rebound and was fouled, getting to the line for a pair. He then had a steal and soon thereafter scored in the lane to cap a 16-6 run by the reserves.
Just before Daniels returned from his injury, the bench had begun to take form. Since he came back it has only become a more formidable unit — the Celtics' bench has outscored the last five opponents' reserves by an average of 14.5 points, the last two by a combined 42.
And now the most beleaguered of the bunch, Wallace, is flashing the form that made him a star for several years in this league. In a second straight effort that should shut up a growing legion of local critics, Wallace had 17 points, five rebounds and three blocks against the Kings.
"I like where Rasheed is trending right now," Rivers said. "He's starting to really come on for us. Rasheed is so important for our team for a lot of reasons."
For one, he helps the bench brigade level the playing field in scrimmages with the starters, a scenario which reminds us of the days when we all thought this Celtics team could do something special.