BOSTON -- Lets be honest. When Von Wafer checked in for Ray Allen with just over a minute left in the first quarter and the Boston Celtics trailing the Miami Heat, 20-13, how many people thought, "This will be one of the guys to get the Cs back in it." Anyone?
If you didnt raise your hand, that's OK. Wafer hadnt proved yet that he could be that guy.
True, he had played well in 20 minutes against the Los Angeles Lakers on Thursday, but he had also struggled the previous game against the Charlotte Bobcats. A few good games here, a handful of meaningful minutes there, Wafer had not been a consistent contributor, especially not against a team like the Heat.
So what would the Celtics get when he walked on to the court -- a guy who would continue to step up against big teams or someone whod be hot one night, cold the next?
On Sunday, Wafer proved to be option A.
I thought Von came in and gave us some great minutes tonight, Kendrick Perkins said following the Celtics 85-82 win. He was huge."
Wafer entered the game averaging 2.8 points in 8.7 minutes. He scored 10 points in 14 minutes off the bench to give the Celtics an edge with their second unit. Despite being shorthanded by injuries, the duo of Wafer and Glen Davis (16 points) helped the Cs fight back from an early deficit.
The Celtics trailed, 20-15, to start the second quarter. Within a span of two-and-a-half minutes, Wafer picked off two steals and connected on two fastbreak lay-ups. His second layup with 8:36 to go in the second gave the Celtics their first lead since 4:22 left in the first.
The bench won the game in the first half. They got us back into it, said Doc Rivers. I thought in a role-reversal they showed the first unit how we were going to have to win this game, and then I thought our first unit took it from there. But Von and Baby were absolutely huge for us and terrific.
Wafer provided a spark in the second half by knocking down a three-pointer to give the Celtics a 74-61 lead at the end of the third quarter. He hit another trey less than two minutes into the fourth.
He was one of the most offensively efficient scorers for the Celtics, shooting 4-for-5 from the field and 2-for-3 from three-point range.
Wafer, though, was quick to point out that he committed two turnovers. While he isnt getting ahead of himself, he isnt dwelling on the negatives, either.
Ive got some room for improvement, he said. Im always going to believe in myself, no matter if I miss ten shots in a row, Im feeling good because I know the next ten are going to go in. Thats just how I feel. If I make a few mistakes, Im not going to get down. Im just going to keep coming.
In addition his scoring, Wafer stepped in and played tight defense against the Heat when the starters needed a rest. After taking on Kobe Bryant on Thursday, he was also tasked with guarding LeBron James at times as well.
I just tried to stay low and stay in front of the ball, Wafer told CSNNE.com. The only kink in his armor may be his shooting, so I was trying to make him shoot, but he drove it anyways. I just wanted to stay in front of him, and I did that.
He added, I just make it tough, try to play as hard as I can. If my man scores, he scores. If he doesnt, he doesnt. Im not going to be scared. Ive just got to try to make it tough for him.
Wafer maintains that he is simply doing his job. But coming off the bench for the championship-contending Celtics is different than any other role he has been assigned before. While he still has progress to make, he proved he is continuing to develop and buy into the Celtics system.
Were all on one page and weve got one mission, he said. It helps when youve got guys pulling for you and not trying to tear you down. These guys are here to build everybody up. Nobodys here to tear anyone down, but when you do something wrong, theyll get on you. Its like a family really.
Jessica Camerato is on Twitter athttp:twitter.comjcameratoNBA