Brandon Bass does not figure to be in the Celtics’ starting lineup this season. But in the final minutes of games, he could be playing an important role.
The Celtics’ 100-92 win over Washington Monday showed why.
The Celtics were struggling against the younger Wizards in the second half. Greg Stiemsma had provided a spark, replacing Jermaine O’Neal (hamstring) in the starting lineup and performing particularly well in the third quarter.
But during crunch time, coach Doc Rivers went to Bass, and he likely would have done the same if O’Neal (who is probable for tonight’s game against New Jersey) had been available.
“That’s a good lineup,’’ Rivers said. “I love that lineup. That’s what we finished with because there are shooters galore, and it makes [Rajon] Rondo very productive because there’s nowhere to help.’’
Rivers did have reservations, though, because Kevin Garnett went the final 12 minutes.
“Again, I just didn’t like that Kevin was in so long,’’ Rivers said. “I thought Kevin missed some shots because he had played that extended stretch. So, you know, it’s funny. Darned if you do darned if you don’t. But, for Kevin, that’s the only thing I didn’t like about the lineup.’’
That becomes a center-less group, not helpless on the boards but with an emphasis on mobility and perimeter shooting.
And while Rivers must be concerned with not burning out his starters, there are no such worries with Bass. While Garnett’s extended minutes caused consternation, there was no concern about Bass also going the fourth-quarter distance. Only Rondo among the Celtics played more minutes than Bass’s 18:06 in the second half.
There does not seem to be much dropoff for Bass whether he is fresh or fatigued. The result against the Wizards had been clinched by the final seconds, but there was Bass speeding downcourt for another dunk (he had three of the Celtics’ four stuff shots).
So this lineup could provide an excellent option for protecting a lead. But there will be situations when the Celtics will need to get stops. In fact, Rivers would prefer to put away games with defense, often saying the team should not have to score points in the late going if the defense is functioning properly.
“The one thing we knew we were getting was energy,’’ Rivers said of Bass. “And we also knew we were getting a guy who could make shots.
“His energy’s been great. He still has to pick up schemes defensively. I think he can be a great defender. Right now, he’s just struggling with our schemes. So, we’ve just got to keep drilling him.’’
Chris Wilcox (bruised shoulder) returned for a 10-minute appearance against Washington after missing three games. As to the cause of the injury, he said, “I know I felt it when I was boxing out. I looked at the tape and seen a couple of incidents where I was tangled up and I got yanked. I can’t put my hands on what play it was or nothing like that.’’
Frank Dell’Apa can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.