With Jaylen Brown (eye) and Marcus Morris (knee) inactive Wednesday, Boston Celtics head coach Brad Stevens had to go to each player on his six-man bench in his team’s 97-90 win over the Dallas Mavericks.
And on a night that would prove to be maybe the most important of the season in terms of bench contributions, each player rose to that challenge.
Stevens regularly went to Shane Larkin, and the 25-year-old did not disappoint. He was a spark on offense each time he subbed in, and his pace of play was essential when Kyrie Irving needed a rest. His up-tempo style of play was essential, especially when he pulled up and knocked down 3-pointers. He and Al Horford both had a trio of 3-pointers, with Larkin going 3-for-5 on the night.
Though the Celtics took control late in the fourth, the Mavs often threatened in the final frame, and a few stout sequences on the defensive end helped give the Celtics’ offense a chance to extend the lead. In a few of those instances, Daniel Theis stood tall. On top of grabbing a career-high 11 rebounds (eight defensive), he forced steals and incessantly contested shots. The German finished his night with seven points along with a pair of steals and one block.
For most of the game, Terry Rozier put on an underwhelming performance. His shooting was abysmal, and bad as it was he couldn’t control himself and continued putting up shots. But while his 3-for-9 shooting was forgettable, he not only made some timely shots in the fourth quarter, but also was integral on defense, particularly with his 9 rebounds, all grabbed on the defensive end.
Abdel Nader and Guerschon Yabusele played just a combined 13 minutes, but each hit a pair of 3-pointers (their only points of the game) that were critical at that juncture. With the Celtics trailing 35-30, Yabusele knocked down his third career 3-pointer. A little over a minute later, with the Mavs having extended their lead to four, Nader knocked down his own third career shot from beyond the arc to pull the Celtics within one.
Semi Ojeleye was best used as a minutes-eater, racking up 24 minutes on the floor, the third-highest tally this season for the rookie. Given the C’s were missing a pair of its regular forwards, he did enough to be effective on defense, while quickly recognizing his shot wasn’t falling after three attempts and thus refraining from hacking up bricks.
While some of the performances were less essential than others, each player provided some sort of necessary contribution with a pair of key players out.
As the season continues, nights like Wednesday will present themselves, where the performance of the bench very well could dictate the result. And for each player to find a way to contribute in some capacity as they did against Dallas, Stevens likely will have some peace of mind when it comes to leaning on his reserves.
Here are some other notes from Celtics-Mavs:
— Despite being out of the lineup due to injury Wednesday, both Brown and Morris are expected to travel with the team on their three-game road trip.
— The Celtics now are 8-0 against Western Conference teams this season. They’ll see West teams in three of their next five games.
— Jayson Tatum is averaging 16 points on 61.1-percent shooting during the past four games.
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