The Boston Celtics owned the first half against the New York Knicks and one of the reasons was the play of the bench.
Courtney Lee led the charge off the bench knocking down three three-pointers in the first half for 14 points and finished the game with 18 points in a 90-86 win for the Celtics.
Tied late in the first quarter, Lee hit two key three-pointers to give the Celtics a 29-26 lead after one.
Lee tested the backboard with two minutes remaining in the opening quarter, banking one in off the backboard and then drilling a three-pointer at the buzzer for the first quarter lead.
“He’s a capable big-shot maker,” said Celtics head coach Brad Stevens. “It was nice to see him get kick-started like that.”
Those two first quarter threes gave Lee the confidence to keep attacking on the offensive end as the game went on.
“I wasn’t trying to bank it but it went in so it counts,” Lee said. “It was a couple of tough shots and luckily I was on luck’s side today. After you hit a couple of tough shots like that you have to check the hot hand.”
Lee knew coming into this game it, it was not only going to be different for the Celtics facing the Knicks after a 41-point blowout on Sunday, but it would be a different game for him too.
After the bench lacked production the past few games, Lee came in determined to provide the spark needed to lift the Celtics when the starters were out.
Lee scored zero points against the Los Angeles Clippers on Wednesday night, and said he knew he had to come back with a better performance against the Knicks.
“Yeah I know last game I had zero, I was mentally out of the game,” Lee said. “I was overhyped to play against them and kind of messed up everything. Like you said, we watch film, we know what we got to do. It’s our role to come in there and pick those guys up. If they are slacking we have got to bring the energy.”
Lee credited working on his shot in practice to his solid performance, as putting the time in and after practice certainly paid off in a big way versus the Knicks.
“I always can get better but I felt a lot better with the release and shoot,” Lee said. “Like you said, repetition every day after practice.”
Help from the bench gave players like Jared Sullinger a lift, and even though in the latter minutes of the fourth quarter Sullinger looked on from the bench, Sullinger said a team effort helped to get the win.
“I think every single guy has helped this team win in our 11 wins this year,” Sullinger said. “We are just being pros’ pros.”
Going forward, Lee will need to keep up this type of production up off the bench to spell the starters when called upon.
“Games like this build character,” Lee said. “The group that was out there learned to trust each other. We know we have been in these situations before and the only way to get out of them is to continue to fight and continue to stay together.”