For much of this season, the Boston Celtics’ bench has been the team’s glaring weakness.
While no one will confuse the current reserves with the C’s bench during the 2007-08 NBA championship season, they are starting to show that they can deliver when called upon.
Boston, a day after beating the Orlando Magic at TD Garden, pulled out a 108-98 road win over the Indiana Pacers on Saturday. Sure, Kyrie Irving’s 25 points and Al Horford’s 21-point, six-assist performance had a lot to do with the victory, but the bench deserves just as much love — if not more.
The Celtics were without Jaylen Brown and Marcus Morris on Saturday. Brown traveled to Atlanta to attend a friend’s funeral, and Morris stayed in Boston to nurse his sore knee. As a result, head coach Brad Stevens deployed a starting lineup of Irving, Marcus Smart, Jayson Tatum, Horford and Daniel Theis.
Smart and Theis played great in their starting-five cameos, with Smart scoring 15 points on 7-for-8 shooting and Theis chipping in with five points, five rebounds, two assists and one block.
Terry Rozier, fresh off a career-high 23 points against the Magic, dropped 17 points off the bench, shooting 7-for-9 from the field and 2-for-3 from 3-point range. Semi Ojeleyes cored six points in 19 minutes and Aron Baynes recorded eight points and four rebounds. This is an encouraging follow-up to Friday’s game, in which the bench accounted for a season-high 49 points.
Most importantly, the Celtics proved they can win a game where Irving doesn’t do everything.
The C’s trailed 54-45 at halftime, but they outscored the Pacers 37-16 in the third quarter and never looked back. During that electrifying run in the third frame, Irving scored just two points.
As good as Irving is, he can’t be responsible for leading the Celtics to victory each and every night. In some games, the bench is going to have to rise up and steal a game. And, though we’re not entirely sold quite yet, the C’s reserves are giving us reason to believe they’re capable of doing just that.
Here are some other notes from Celtics-Pacers:
— Here’s an interesting nugget on Boston’s starting lineup:
— The C’s had five players score in double-figures for the second consecutive game.
— The Marcus Smart roller coaster continues.
— Boston was outscored in every quarter except the third.
— Smart on his season-long shooting woes:
— Here’s why Irving’s being mentioned as a possible MVP candidate:
— The Celtics now have played 21 games and held opponents under 100 points in 14 of them.
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