BOSTON — Brandon Bass has seldom had a play called for him in the NBA, and that is OK with him. The soft-spoken power forward usually has very little to say about himself or his team, whether after wins or losses, 20-point performances or forgettable duds, playoff games or preseason contests.
Bass’ play spoke for itself on Sunday — rather, it spoke for his teammates. By coming within two points of tying his season scoring high, Bass demonstrated just how important Kevin Garnett and Paul Pierce are to the Celtics’ playoff hopes.
“Jason Terry was talking about it today, how things flow a lot smoother when Kevin and Paul are out there,” said Bass, who scored 20 points in the Celtics’ 107-96 win over the Wizards. “Everything is being run through them. Everybody is just getting what they get from them. It’s a lot better when they’re out there. It doesn’t matter if I get a play called. The ball will find me. Hopefully, I just make the shot.”
With Garnett and Pierce back on the court together for the first time since March 22 in Dallas, several Celtics players suddenly seemed to be back in their comfort zones. Chris Wilcox had 13 points and five rebounds, exceeding his scoring output from any of his six starts in Garnett’s absence. Avery Bradley made the Wizards pay for leaving him open early by scoring six of Boston’s first 10 points. But Bass was the most noticeable beneficiary.
“The thing about Brandon is, we don’t run a lot of plays for him,” Pierce said. “But he seems to always be in the right spots, available, taking advantage of his opportunities to move the ball, and that’s what you’re seeing.”
On offense, Bass has always been the type of scorer who lets the game come to him. That will never change. He scored on his usual array of mid-range jump shots and open dunks off assists by his teammates, but he broke out his underrated first step to create a couple of easy baskets on his own.
The most highlight-worthy moment of Bass’ night came midway through the third quarter. After getting the ball at the top of the key on a kick-out from Pierce, Bass barreled down the lane and threw down a ferocious slam as Wizards big men Emeka Okafor and Kevin Seraphin backed away. A couple of minutes later, Bass hit a fadeaway 20-footer as the shot clock expired. It was that kind of night for him.
While Bass goes with the flow on offense, he is becoming increasingly assertive on defense. Rivers marveled at how Bass began communicating on defense during Garnett’s sabbatical — “that’s really new,” Rivers joked — and during some stretches against the Wizards, Bass and Wilcox flew around the court, knocking away passes and rotating to help their guards when the Wizards dribbled toward the hoop.
“I really think it started for him at the [defensive] end,” Rivers said. “Listen, with him and Jeff [Green], especially, he’s just making open shots. Nine for 12, he’s just efficient. You still want him to rebound — we want the whole team to rebound more — but overall, I think he’s playing terrific. He’s in a wonderful place right now.”
The best place for Bass is alongside Garnett and Pierce, playing off two of the game’s best and taking his shots as they come. There are far worse places to be, even if Bass never hears his number called at all.