The movie “A-Team” premieres on Friday, but it was the Celtics’ “B-Team” that was starring on Thursday night.
Boston reserves Glen “Big Baby” Davis and Nate Robinson provided the scoring while Rasheed Wallace and Tony Allen added the defense to help the Celtics beat the Los Angeles Lakers 96-89 in Game Four of the NBA Finals and even the series 2-2. With starters Rajon Rondo and Kevin Garnett struggling, Robinson and Davis combined for 30 points, exciting the crowd with momentum-sparking plays and timely baskets.
Davis, 18 points, took advantage of a depleted Lakers front line, wrestling with reserve forward Lamar Odom for four offensive rebounds and nine fourth quarter points. A foul and continuation on Davis’ basket with 8:22 remaining prompted Robinson to hop upon Davis’ back as the “Big Baby” drooled for the camera with excitement.
With Laker center Andrew Bynum limited to 12 minutes after aggravating his knee in Game Three, the 6'9", 290-pound Davis was the heaviest man on the floor down the stretch and it showed. The Celtics out-rebounded the Lakers 41-34 and doubled Los Angeles on the offensive glass, 16-8.
Kobe Bryant scored 12 of his 33 points in the final period but was limited to just two points for much of the quarter until sinking a free throw with 2:50 remaining. By the time Bryant scored his third point of the period, Allen’s defense on Bryant down the stretch had helped the Celtics turn a 62-60 deficit at the start of the fourth into an 85-78 lead.
Wallace’s defense on Laker power forward Pau Gasol may have been even more impressive than Allen’s. Wallace limited Gasol to only four points in the quarter before leaving with 1:16 left after falling on his already ailing back a few plays earlier. Celtics coach Doc Rivers went with the bulk of his “B-Team” deep into the final period until Garnett, Rondo, and Paul Pierce returned to put Los Angeles away for the final 2:50.
Pierce scored the next five points and Rondo stole a pass and finished a layup to put Boston ahead 92-84 with 31 seconds remaining. While the Celtics bench was emulating a group of ’80s fictional heroes, it was the Lakers who were reenacting their own real life movie.
Bynum’s absence in the 2008 NBA Finals helped Boston punish Los Angeles up front and win the series 4-2. With Bynum stationed on the bench the majority of Game Four, it was the first time all series that the Lakers have failed to post double-digit offensive rebounds and block less than seven shots in a game, finishing with three.
Despite limited action, Davis, Allen, Wallace, and Robinson have played well throughout the Finals as Rivers has given heavy minutes to his first team. With his starters playing inconsistently throughout the first four games, Rivers may be forced into using his “B-Team” more as his “A-Team” down the stretch of games similar to what he did Thursday night. It certainly worked in Game Four.
“We just knew we had to bring our energy, that’s the main thing for us,” Robinson told reporters about his reserve unit’s play. “The more energy we bring, the better offensively we are and the better defensively we are.”