BOSTON — It took a while for coach Brad Stevens to find the right combination of players, but since he has, the Celtics’ starting lineup has taken off.
Jeff Green scored a game-high 29 points and Brandon Bass notched his second double-double of the season on Tuesday, but the Celtics could not overcome the total lack of production by their bench in their 96-88 loss to the Clippers. Until Gerald Wallace hit a layup with less than two minutes remaining in the third quarter, the Celtics (10-14) did not receive a single point from their bench. By the end, a layup by little-used reserve MarShon Brooks had doubled Boston’s bench production all the way up to four points.
The starters didn’t point fingers after the loss, but Wallace, who is never one to mince words, broke down the problems in his usual blunt style.
“I don’t think we executed,” Wallace said. “We didn’t play very well offensively or defensively [Wednesday]. We didn’t share the ball offensively. We didn’t swing the ball from side to side. We didn’t commit to the defensive end and on the defensive end we didn’t challenge them, we didn’t play them, we let them do what they wanted to do offensively.”
Granted, the Clippers have one of the top 12 scoring benches in the NBA and a former sixth man of the year in Jamal Crawford, who may have been as responsible as any player for L.A.’s win, with 21 points. But after Tuesday, when the Celtics lost to Brooklyn despite every Boston starter scoring in double figures, Wednesday’s setback showed a disturbing trend among Celtics reserves. It doesn’t help that Courtney Lee, who fouled out in 15 scoreless minutes on Wednesday, appears to be nursing his sore left knee again.
“When Crawford gets going, that’s scary,” Stevens said. “When anyone gets 21 points off the bench for your team, it adds a great deal, especially in a game like this.”
If Stevens sounds a little jealous, it’s probably because he is. He just wishes he knew what getting 21 points from someone off his bench felt like.
Stevens blamed himself for leaving backup center Vitor Faverani on the bench for the entire second half, even though the rookie didn’t play particularly well in the 5:17 he played before halftime. The Clippers went small, which should have been to the advantage of the Celtics, who don’t start a single player taller than 6-foot-9.
None of the matchups played in the Celtics’ favor, however. Stevens did throw in a wrinkle by subbing in Brooks in the second half, but he admitted in hindsight it wasn’t the wrinkle they needed.
“We just didn’t have much size,” Stevens said. “I should have played Vitor in the second half. I’ll be kicking myself for that. At the end of the day, we didn’t have a lot going, so you kind of roll the dice or flip the coin and hope it works.”