BOSTON — Brandon Bass is taken for granted. It is harsh, but true. While Kevin Garnett has rediscovered his spirit in the second half of the season and Greg Stiemsma has come into his own, Bass has continued to supply the steady dose of offense he has all season.
Bass looked bemused when a crowd of reporters gathered around guards Avery Bradley and Keyon Dooling in the locker room after Boston's 94-82 victory over the Jazz. Bass had scored 19 points, more than anybody in a green jersey except Garnett and Paul Pierce, while helping to stifle a Jazz front line that even Celtics coach Doc Rivers expected to cause trouble for the Celtics. But only four lowly beat reporters with notepads and audio recorders approached him.
"What, no video cameras?" Bass asked with a smile.
The Celtics did not trade for Bass expecting him to play 30 minutes a game as the starting power forward, but that is now his role. A reserve for most of his career, Celtics president of basketball operations Danny Ainge nabbed Bass to back up Garnett and give Boston a reliable scoring threat off the bench.
Season-ending health issues for Jeff Green and Jermaine O'Neal thrust Bass into the starting lineup, and after some early struggles jelling with the starting unit, Bass has been a model of consistency. He has scored in double-figures in nine of the last 11 games, increasing his season scoring average to a career-high 12.2 points per game.
He has logged huge minutes since Chris Wilcox was lost for the season with a heart ailment, making Wednesday's game a potentially dangerous one. The Jazz can mix and match four players at the center and power forward positions, starting Al Jefferson and Paul Millsap before bringing rookie Enes Kanter and second-year player Derrick Favors off the bench.
Utah's depth up front made an impression on Rivers.
"Big," Rivers said. "Not necessarily tall, but they're very big. Al and Millsap have been playing unbelievable, but then when you have Kanter and Favors coming in after that, that's pretty imposing."
Yet the Celtics were able to build an 18-point lead and survive a Jazz comeback bid in part by utilizing the old Bill Russell–Wilt Chamberlain trick. In certain big games, the Hall of Fame Celtics center famously allowed Chamberlain to score 50 points or more in order to focus on shutting down Chamberlain's teammates.
So it was with Jefferson and Millsap, who combined for 26 of Utah's 47 second-half points while Utah's starting backcourt of Devin Harris and C.J. Miles went scoreless after halftime.
"They've got some solid bigs over there," Bass said. "What we wanted to do is, do what we do. That's defend at a high level, rebound and run."
The Celtics succeeded at two out of those three — they were outrebounded 49-38, the 14th time in 18 games since the All-Star break in which they have been outrebounded — with Bass playing a major role in the team's success.
Now if only someone bothered to notice.