- Chris Forsberg, Celtics reporter, ESPNBoston.com
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The fact that Celtics coach Doc Rivers was even debating the issue of who to start in place of suspended Kevin Garnett in Game 2 of Boston's Eastern Conference first-round playoff series with the Miami Heat is slightly condemning of Rasheed Wallace's play.
After all, Garnett sat out 11 games this season due to injury (two more for rest) and, as long as Wallace was healthy, the veteran got the call for the spot start at power forward.
But here Boston is in the postseason, when the games matter most, and Rivers, while not tipping his hand Monday, seemed to be leaning in favor of starting Glen Davis over Wallace in Tuesday's Game 2.
It's an inclination confirmed by center Kendrick Perkins, who told reporters Tuesday morning that Davis would start in Garnett's place.
While Davis has been a bit of a disappointment this season with his statistics -- 6.3 points and 3.8 rebounds per game, way off from the potential he showed in last year's postseason while filling in for an injured Garnett -- Wallace hasn't done much to distinguish himself with his own play.
On paper, Wallace's numbers are better (averaging 9 points and 4.1 rebounds), but Game 1 showed exactly why Rivers is choosing Davis. Wallace's stat line looks like a call to directory assistance as he logged 4 points, 1 rebound and 1 assist in 14 unremarkable minutes.
Davis, meanwhile, provided a burst of energy, particularly in the fourth quarter, when he scored five of his eight points to help Boston pull away from the Heat. Davis added eight rebounds and two steals in 24 high-intensity minutes.
For his part, Wallace said Monday that it doesn't matter who starts, as long as he's out there helping the team finish.
"It doesn't matter -- as long as I'm in there in the fourth quarter, I don't care if I start," said Wallace. "I don't care if Doc brings me off the bench. Like I said before, [Rivers is the] mad scientist, with the right formula he sees out on the floor. If he sees me starting, fine. If he doesn't see me starting, fine. I'm not going to sit up here and cry about it."
Wallace's stance is a good philosophy for his entire season. It doesn't matter how he started, it's all about how he finishes.
In a season when he drew the ire of Celtics fans for his frustratingly inconsistent and often lackluster play, Wallace -- who before Game 1 sounded off about not changing his game because fans boo him -- can right a lot of wrongs by simply making himself a factor this postseason.
He didn't do it in Game 1. But without Garnett, he almost has to in Game 2. Wallace admitted Monday that he likes the challenge.
"That's something that, no matter how old I get, I always step up to a good challenge," said Wallace. "That makes me feel good inside. I'm ready for it.
"There's a lot on me. I know I have to go in on Kevin's role -- set picks for [Rajon] Rondo, Ray [Allen], Paul [Pierce], pop sometimes, post, and look for the high-low with [Perkins]. But it's a regular game. I'm not going to try to step outside of my game."
Wallace doesn't need to step outside of his game, but he does need to raise it. He needs to showcase a level of play that makes Rivers' decision easier if this situation arises again.
When assessing the question of whether to start Wallace or Davis, Rivers pointed to positives with two dissimilar players.
"They're completely different players," said Rivers. "Rasheed gives us more size, he gives us a better post player, between him and Baby. And he spreads the floor. Baby gives you energy and Baby moves his feet a little better in the [Michael] Beasley matchup. They are so completely different, that's what makes this decision so difficult. It would be easy if they were similar; you'd just say, 'Him, we'll start him.' But they're not, so it's tough."
Wallace drew a start in place of Garnett during a game against Miami on Jan. 6 (memorable for Rondo's late-game alley-oop from Paul Pierce that forced overtime, when Boston prevailed 112-106). Wallace played 36 minutes, connecting on 6 of 11 shots for 16 points with nine rebounds, two steals, a block and an assist.
For Wallace, who bafflingly didn't post a single double-double all season, it was as close as he came during the 2009-10 campaign.
"Rasheed was terrific in that game," said Rivers. "We played [the Heat] that one time without Kevin and we did well. That gives us a little bit of confidence. But it's a whole different game now, it's played at a higher level than that game was played, and we have to be ready."
Suddenly, Wallace might not be good enough for the higher level. But the Celtics need him to be in order to truly be championship contenders moving forward.
Regardless of whether he starts Tuesday, Wallace said Boston must find a way to win without Garnett, and pointed out a slight positive to the situation.
"I'm glad that he's rested a little bit," said Wallace. "I hate that it had to happen like this, but Kevin needs to rest a little bit. It's a long haul and he's been going hard all season without much of a break.
"For us to get out there and get that win without him, that's saying a lot about our ballclub. Guys are ready to step up."
Chris Forsberg is the Celtics reporter for ESPNBoston.com. Follow him on Twitter.
With KG out, Doc Rivers had a decision to make: Start Sheed or Baby?