Stevens benches Celtics starters in crunch time

Stevens benches Celtics starters in crunch time
December 31, 2013, 5:30 pm
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BOSTON -- As the clock ticked down in a one-point game between the Celtics and Hawks, Brad Stevens decided to stick with who got him there.

That meant that for most of the fourth quarter, starters Jeff Green, Jared Sullinger and Brandon Bass stayed on the bench. The Celtics would instead roll with Kelly Olynyk, Kris Humphries and Gerald Wallace.

Though Stevens and his team fell to the Hawks in a New Year's Eve matinee, 92-91, he remained confident in his decision to bench his starters in crunch time after the fact.

“I think it was pretty obvious that today the guys that were playing at the end were the guys that played well today," Stevens said. "So, you know, hard to take out a guy like Hump who’s got 18 [points] and 10 [rebounds] at that time and Kelly who’s got his best game as a pro going. So, you stick with them.”

Humphries recorded a season-high with 28:09 of action and was active all afternoon against the Hawks. He made open shots from the free-throw line and in, he rebounded, he ran the floor, and he helped the Celtics make a 26-10 run from the end of the first quarter and into the second.

"The second unit was playing well together so we were just trying to ride that," Humphries said. "Unfortunately we weren't able to get the win."

Olynyk's big night -- he had a team-high 21 points -- made it easier for Stevens to keep his starting forwards on the bench.

"Kelly and Hump had it rolling so I don't know why would I even come back in," said Sullinger. "They had a roll going, they played really well and we was just going to ride the wave."

Sullinger said he wasn't bothered by spending time on the bench late in the game. Green and Bass did not speak to the media following the game.
 
"That doesn't bother me at all," Sullinger said. "When you have somebody like that . . . Kelly was on fire. Hump played really well defensively and offensively so why even come in and mess up the groove? Might as well let them stick it out and play hard. I thought they carried us down the stretch."

Sullinger went on to explain that when players have off-nights like the one he had tonight -- he recorded two points and 10 rebounds while dealing with a re-aggravated hand injury -- they deserve to have their minutes cut back.

"That's basketball -- period," he said. "You gotta grow up and understand that. Everybody has games like that. Somebody has it going and you just have to play behind them. It's life. That's basketball. Nobody's going to be perfect every night."

Frustration appeared to set in with both Bass and Green late in the game. While both were on the bench, they seemed to engage in a fairly heated exchange of words. The subject of their discussion was not known.

When asked about their interaction after the game, Stevens did not seem at all concerned.

"Disagreements are part of the game," he said. "Part of team basketball. How quickly you move on from them says a lot."