A few days ago, the case was made for Jeff Green to start instead of coming off the bench. However, with the Boston Celtics struggling throughout this west coast trip, lineup changes should be made, not only to preserve the legs of the veterans, but to give minutes to players who really deserve it. In the last week or so, Paul Pierce and Kevin Garnett have looked tired at the end of games, and that’s because they’re being relied upon too much, along with Doc Rivers consistently playing them when they should be resting on the bench.
Last night, Rivers made some questionable substitutions late in the fourth quarter against the Portland Trail Blazers. With about six minutes to go in the game, Jeff Green was subbed out for a struggling Brandon Bass who shouldn’t have been put on the floor in that situation. The Celtics desperately needed some defensive stops and rebounds and got neither when it really mattered. Chris Wilcox, who had been playing aggressively in the time that he played, fought for the ball on every possession and rebound. Had he been in the game with five minutes left in the game, the Trail Blazers may not have had second chance opportunities as easily as they did.
The Blazers also exposed a weakness in the Celtics lineup late in the fourth quarter. While Portland played small ball, Doc Rivers went with one of the bigger lineups the team has, but it was to no avail. The Blazers still got second chance opportunities, and their back court was getting open on the perimeter because their quickness was beating Boston’s size. Had Courtney Lee been in the game, Wesley Matthews wouldn’t have been open to take the dagger three point shot with less than a minute remaining.
Situational lineups always vary depending on what is required to get stops or score points, but starting lineups can always be changed. Instead of having Brandon Bass start at power forward, Jeff Green should take his spot as a starter. Boston has to start games better and carry that momentum into the second quarter and having their best offensive unit to start games would benefit the team as the game wears on. The bench is always blamed for giving up leads, but to their defense, this season they haven’t been given a lead to protect. Players like Courtney Lee, Avery Bradley, and Jeff Green all should be playing 40+ minutes a night while Garnett and Pierce rest on the sidelines. The formula to win games for Boston is no longer to have the veterans come in and dominate an entire game, the Celtics must look to the young guys to start carrying the team, and that starts with Doc giving them playing time.
Needless to say, Rivers has to give the young guys playing time. While he’s prone to giving the veterans minutes, they’re not getting the job done. He’s got to stop putting players in who are not having a good shooting night in clutch situations. Last night Courtney Lee, Chris Wilcox, and Jeff Green were all having decent nights and should have been in the game throughout the entire fourth quarter. While Brandon Bass has been effective in the past, he hasn’t been in the last few weeks. The Celtics aren’t winning, and not changing up the game plan has backfired on Doc so far. Injuries have taken a toll, and yes, Rajon Rondo was definitely needed to win last night, but there were other players on the bench who could have easily stepped into that role. Boston is a playoff team, but misusing players in close games like last night is a great way to slowly fall in the standings.