C's bench is difference in win over Bobcats

C's bench is difference in win over Bobcats
November 25, 2013, 11:45 pm
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When you look at Boston's starting lineup and their backups, there's not a ton of difference between the two units.

Still, there's a certain stigma attached to all bench players, that they're not good enough to be starters (otherwise they would start, right?).

But in the NBA it's not unusual for the second-team to deliver a first-rate performance from time to time that results in a victory.

That's exactly what the Boston Celtics got out of their backups in Monday's 96-86 win over Charlotte.

It was Boston's second straight win, both on the road, to raise their record to 6-10.

That kind of sucks by most standards, but it puts them in the thick of things in Atlantic Division which may be the worst division in all professional sports.

And Monday's win was not your typical beat-up-the-Bobkitties kind of victory, either.

The Bobcats have one of the better defenses in the NBA, and are a legit playoff contender in the East this season. Boston found this out the hard way on Nov. 13 when the two met at the TD Garden and the Celtics were on a high having won four in a row.

Not only did the Celtics lose that game, but they spent the entire game playing from behind which was the first time that had happened all season.

That loss was the jumping off point that saw the Celtics drop five more before finally ending their losing skid with a win at Atlanta on Friday.

Boston's win over the Hawks was one with many contributions, too.

But Monday was different because of the way Boston's bench mob collectively took out the Bobcats team, starters and backups alike.

Focusing on the fact that Celtics guard/forward Gerald Wallace (17 points), the all-time leader in points scored in Bobcats history, outscored the entire Charlotte bench (15) by himself is noteworthy. He did it all the time during his six seasons with them.

But his play was just one of the many that stood out among Boston's backups.

There was Celtics' undrafted rookie point guard Phil Pressey doing his best Rajon Rondo impersonation, finishing with a game-high eight assists in 20 minutes of court time.

Then you look at Courtney Lee who had 11 points which included some timely baskets and a plus/minus ratio of plus-18 which was tops on the team.

You have to also give Kris Humphries his due for the job he did defensively on former Celtic Al Jefferson, a major factor in Humphries' plus/minus ratio being a shade below Lee at plus-17.

It doesn't matter who you try to focus on that came off the Celtics bench.

They all got the job done Monday night.

"Bench changed the game," said Celtics coach Brad Stevens, who for those who didn't understand just how serious he was about that statement, reiterated immediately. "Bench changed the game."

And short of a game-changer they can rely on in the starting lineup, they're going to need the second unit to collectively step up like this more often.

On most nights, the player-by-player talent scale for Boston will be slightly tilted in their opponent's favor.

So anything short of a strong showing from their bench will likely result in a loss or at the very least, a tougher-than-expected matchup.

But within that bench, Stevens is starting to figure out certain combinations work better in certain situations, and in certain games.

And those bench combinations over time will make the Celtics a more challenging team for defenses to prepare for and likely result in a few more wins.

This is who the Celtics are, a bad team when they play as individuals but capable of great success when their bench plays close to its collective potential.

And make no mistake, folks -

Boston's oneness among its second unit players reminds us all that playing the role of a starter may be cool, but being a game-changer in victory whether its starting or coming off the bench . . . even cooler.