On Saturday, Doc Rivers went with a seven man rotation and only got four points off the bench in the loss to the New York Knicks. He only called on three bench players throughout the entire game and none of them could contribute enough to put a dent in New York’s armor. Among the players who never got off the pine, Chris Wilcox, Terrence Williams, and Shavlik Randolph, who proved that they can make an impact in games, sat on the bench and helplessly witnessed Game 1’s downfall. This cannot happen tomorrow.
During the season fans believed that Jason Terry’s value would surface in the playoffs, and after Saturday it’s now time to question whether he was a good signing at all. He was given multiple opportunities at high percentage shots on the perimeter, but failed to drain any of them, and to cap it off, “The Jet” was denied flight on a dunk attempt as he was rejected taking the ball to the rim. When people say that Terrence Williams should be getting his minutes, I can’t agree more. Terry is a liability on defense, and if he’s not knocking down shots, he’s just a body that the Celtics are putting on the floor.
Jordan Crawford wasn’t given enough time, playing only 10 minutes in Game 1. Putting him with Terrence Williams in the backcourt worked to perfection in the regular season, and Rivers should go back to that as it was successful. If they have Williams in, that takes a lot of pressure off of Crawford, and because of Williams height and length, he is not confined to playing the guard positions, but can also be moved to small forward when Jeff Green or Paul Pierce are on the bench.
The New York Knicks went with a ten man rotation which kept their starters from getting worn out during the game, and keeping them fresh against Boston’s weary legs. Not one forward off the bench for the Celtics came into the game. They were having difficulty boxing out on rebounds, but never went to Chris Wilcox, Shavlik Randolph, or even DJ White. You can’t win basketball games being reluctant to attempt to matchup against the other team. Kenyon Martin was looking young out there because Garnett, Green, and Bass were drained both physically and emotionally. Wilcox and Randolph may not give you 20 minutes of consistent playing time, but at least they’ll be doing something rather than watching the game like the millions of fans who tuned in on Saturday.
Doc Rivers needs to go with a bigger rotation. In 2008 he had plenty of options to go with, and now with the injuries, he has to rely on players he probably has no confidence in. But it works both ways. These guys who are watching won’t benefit just sitting, witnessing their teammates doing all the work. They need to be involved and start playing. The team may have looked winded in the fourth quarter because all the energy that could have been reserved was used trying to keep up with the Knicks offense.
New York may have great players, and they may be the better team. However, if Boston goes deeper into their bench, they can send waves of fresh players with rested legs who can match the Knicks, not with ability or talent, but at least staying in front of their man and giving the starters time to rest.
The bench is my key to victory in this series and for the rest of the playoffs. The reason Boston’s bench hasn’t been good the past few years is because Doc Rivers isn’t using them. If he goes with a nine or ten man rotation, I guarantee the effectiveness of the starters late in the game will have more of an impact than in Game 1. Now it’s up to the coaching staff to act and make adjustments. This series can’t be won by the starters alone, it has to be from everyone, including the last man on the bench. This series isn’t over by a long shot, but another loss like Saturday, and the fight within this team will be gone.