Wilcox, Randolph stepping up for Celtics

Wilcox, Randolph stepping up for Celtics
April 8, 2013, 11:30 am
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BOSTON — All season, Celtics head coach Doc Rivers has been searching for a suitable backup for Kevin Garnett. With the playoffs around the corner, they may have stumbled upon not one but two viable options to choose from.

Chris Wilcox and Shavlik Randolph each delivered in a big way off the Celtics bench as backups to Garnett in helping the C's to a 107-96 win over Washington on Sunday.

There's plenty of statistical data that would indicate just how much better the Celtics are with Garnett than without him. But the bottom line -- wins -- tells it all.

During the eight games Garnett missed with inflammation in his left foot, the C's were just 3-5 with a number of the losses due in large part because of Boston's inability to keep teams from scoring around the basket -- one of Garnett's many strengths for the Celtics.

Wilcox, with seven starts filling in for Garnett, had 13 points on 6-for-7 shooting to go with five rebounds, two assists and two steals.

Randolph, the first big man off the pine for the Celtics, had eight points and a team-high seven rebounds despite playing just 15 minutes. Just as impressive was the plus-10 the C's were when Randolph was on the floor.

For too many games to count, there was a major lull in the team's play when Garnett went to the bench for a breather. But if Randolph and Wilcox can consistently make an impact when they enter the game, that would breathe some much-needed life into a team that's looking to find its stride as the playoffs are just on the horizon.

By going with Randolph as the first substitute for Garnett, it allowed C's head coach to pair Wilcox with Garnett -- something Rivers believes will help both Wilcox and the Celtics.

"And it gives Kevin some minutes at the four (power forward) and not the five (center)," Rivers said.

Although the Wizards have one of the league's worst records, they have been among the Eastern Conference's top teams since Jan. 12, which happens to be the day that John Wall returned to their lineup.

In addition to Wall, the Wizards have a very physical, imposing front line of Emeka Okafor, Nene and Kevin Seraphin, all of whom have great strength around the basket.

For Wilcox and Randolph to play so well against another team with great size, that gives Rivers some sense as to how the Celtics may fare if they were to face a team with a beefy frontcourt like the Indiana Pacers that features Roy Hibbert and David West along with Tyler Hansbrough off the bench.

Rivers cautions that it was just one game, but added, "I thought it would be a good test case because of  [the Wizards'] size. I thought it went pretty well."

The same can be said for the brewing competition that clearly exists between Randolph and Wilcox. Rivers had said recently that the C's have a solid seven players in their playoff rotation, and would look to add at least one or two more to the regular mix of players. Both Wilcox and Randolph are among those on the outside looking in with the goal being to secure a spot in the postseason rotation.

More performances like the ones they had on Sunday will leave Rivers little choice but to expand his playoff rotation by two players, not just one.

“That’s gonna be up to Doc, whoever he decides he wants out there," said Paul Pierce. "But the key for us is to develop that consistency over the next week and a half, what we want to do and who we want to be going into the playoffs."

Added Garnett: "You need a good strong 11, if not eight, whatever the rotation is.  We have some chemistry and rhythm with that group.”