On Monday night, Bass had that honor with 12 points, and Boston trailed 57-49.
But, as head coach Doc Rivers emphasized, the role players' contributions weren't the reason the Celtics were behind — the bench and players like Bass were why Boston was even in it.
The Celtics fell 82-81 after a fourth-quarter flurry of offense failed to displace the damage done by a game otherwise full of lackluster performances. Kevin Garnett broke his streak of monster games, hitting two early baskets and then falling silent until he scored 11 points in the final frame. Paul Pierce had just seven points all night. Rajon Rondo added eight.
But the supporting cast was active each quarter.
Rivers had kind words for his second unit after the game. He noted that, while the starters sometimes got away from the offense, the bench was consistent in doing what was needed to create shots. Those players were the ones who eventually opened things up for Garnett, who faced a swarming, trapping Sixers defense all night.
"Nothing was wrong [with Garnett in the first three quarters]," Rivers said. "We didn't go to him. It's plain and simple. My thought: We never established the post. I thought the second unit again established the post in the one stretch in the fourth quarter."
The bench also got Boston back into the game in other areas. Ray Allen, whose starting spot was occupied by Bradley, scored 17 points.
And Mickael Pietrus, who has been solid on defense in the playoffs but struggled offensively, also showed up big. Pietrus had been a clunky 4 of 17 in the postseason heading into Monday, but he drilled back-to-back 3-pointers to get the Celtics within two points of the lead early in the fourth quarter.
For Rivers, the dry spell Monday night was not so much the offensive stars struggling — it was how players were moving the ball. In Rivers' eyes, the group made up of Pietrus, Allen, Garnett, Bradley and Keyon Dooling did what was needed to get the offense flowing.
"I just think we've got to play right," Rivers said of what the team needs on offense. "You know, we've got to move the ball. It was no coincidence, again, when the one group was in, they spaced the floor, [the 76ers] trapped Kevin the same way that they've been trapping him, and we got layups and wide-open 3s. So, we have to do that first, and then we’ll find out if somebody else has to step up."
The Celtics have long known that they need more than one, three or seven players to win a game. The bench — and the contributions role players can make in the starting lineup — are key to getting consistent production. And, as offensive stalwarts such as Pierce and Allen continue to battle injuries, the Celtics can't afford to wait for a late burst. In Game 1, it worked. On Monday night, the Sixers were ready and held on.
"Everybody has to pay attention, has to focus," Allen said. "At any moment, somebody's name is going to get called, and that's the nature of the playoffs."
The second unit was focused Monday, and it won't be long before the group is called on again.
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