The Boston Celtics will need their bench to play consistently well in the NBA Finals if they are going to capture their 18th title.
After a maddeningly inconsistent season marred by injuries, the reserves have almost fulfilled the preseason expectations. Forward Rasheed Wallace awakened in Game 2 of the Eastern Conference semifinal series versus the Cleveland Cavaliers. Glen Davis has matured both on and off the court to become the most productive player off the bench. Tony Allen has played tough-minded defense, especially on Dwayne Wade and LeBron James.
On the dawn of the Finals in Los Angeles, the Celtics are dealing with the injury bug. Wallace’s back tightened up in Game 5 of the Eastern Conference Finals versus the Orlando Magic. Even though Wallace was able to give full participation in practice yesterday, his back will be a concern among the coaches and fans. Wallace will have to intimidate and bully the perceived “soft” Los Angeles Lakers front court, including Pau Gasol and Lamar Odom.
Odom is a 6-foot-10 forward who can stretch the floor by knocking down treys, but he has not shot the ball well from beyond the three-point line (29 percent) in the playoffs. There are times when he does not show up.
Allen sprained his ankle in Game 2 of the Eastern Conference Finals and he looked to be bothered as the series lingered. Allen will be called on to defend Lakers guard Kobe Bryant.
Davis has averaged 7.5 points per game and 4.1 rebounds in this postseason. He was the leading scorer in Game 3 of the Orlando series with 17 points. The Los Angeles Lakers’ height could present problems for Davis. The 290-pound Davis will need to push his weight (no pun intended) in the post and create opportunities for his teammates to corral loose balls.
Nate Robinson, who will be seeing his first action in this rivalry, gives the same intangibles that Shannon Brown brings to the Lakers. They are athletic guards who can jump through the roof. When they are knocking down shots and making plays, they supply an energy boost for their squads.
The one player who will be out for Game 1, and possibly longer, is Marquis Daniels, who is suffering from tingling sensation in his fingers after the concussion he received running into Marcin Gortat last Wednesday. When Daniels was signed in the offseason, this was the time the Celtics were hoping he would unleash his talent. He can guard three positions while running the offense off the pine. Since he had surgery on his left thumb in December, he has been ineffective and relegated to the end of the bench.
The Lakers have depth at the point guard position with Jordan Farmar and Brown. Robinson could see more minutes throughout this series.
This is the match-up everyone predicted before the season because many people believed the Celtics strengthened their bench in the offseason with the free agent signings of Wallace and Daniels. Eddie House and James Posey were able to help the Celtics bring the championship back to Boston in 2008.
Will this year’s bench accomplish the same task?