That's always a point of emphasis with these Celtics, given the aging bodies in their starting five. But it was especially nice on Wednesday night, as the C's cruised to victory over the Indiana Pacers, for Doc to leave his starters on the bench.
"I told [assistant coach Lawrence Frank] at the beginning of the fourth, I'm going to squeeze this game as long as I can," Rivers said. "Let's see if we don't have to put anybody back in."
This was the perfect night for the Celtics to let their second unit run free, because this was the most intact second unit we've seen all season. With Jeff Green comfortable with 10 games under his belt, Glen Davis back from a knee injury, and Delonte West returning on Wednesday from a sprained ankle, everything came together for the Celtics at the TD Garden. The C's built a 74-60 lead going into the fourth quarter, they let the starters sit, and they watched the backups cruise. It was their night.
Davis finished with 27 minutes played, and Green with 26. Those two reserves played as big a role as anyone for the Celtics, who held on for a 92-80 final.
"I thought the second unit really sparked us," Rivers said. "You could see the first unit to start the game, they were trying hard, but they were almost pressing for whatever reason. I thought the second unit got our energy back up. Jeff and Delonte and Baby, I thought that group was just a terrific group. They gave us great energy, and that was big."
Green was a huge offensive boon early — he dropped 13 points in the second quarter alone, shooting 3-of-5 and also getting to the line eight times. At halftime, he had 17 of the Celtics' 47 points. He finished with 19, Davis added nine with nine rebounds, three offensive. West was quiet on the stat sheet but contributed with tough defense and crisp ball movement.
"Just doing our job," Green said. "Trying to create for the team, spark up a little run. I think the second unit, collectively, we came in and gave a big spark. That led to a 10-point lead, which we maintained throughout the game."
Green, Davis, Carlos Arroyo and Troy Murphy were already beginning to gel before Wednesday. But the addition of West, who had been out since Feb. 26 with a bum ankle, was the final piece of the puzzle. Now the unit really fits together.
It was a bit surprising how quickly West fell into place. His first game back, without so much as a practice, he settled right in.
"He's been playing somewhere," Rivers said. "His rhythm was too good. He's been a rec league somewhere, or something. I was amazed how well he handled the ball. Usually when you miss games at the guard position, you have the fumbles. You make bad decisions. But he had great timing the entire night."
"I think the addition of Delonte gave them some really good balance," Paul Pierce said. "He's such a poised player. Even though he's been out for so long, you can just see how he smooths out that second unit. With his passing, with his defense, his hustle, that second unit is really coming together."