Commentary

Celtics again turn to Sheed, bench

With Garnett and Perkins ailing, reserves will be called on to play key role in Game 3

Updated: May 6, 2010, 7:40 PM ET
By Chris Forsberg | ESPNBoston.com

WALTHAM, Mass. -- Barring a setback in the next 24 hours or so, it's almost certain the Boston Celtics will have both Kevin Garnett (foot) and Kendrick Perkins (knee) in their starting lineup for Friday's Game 3 against the Cleveland Cavaliers at the TD Garden.

Yet, regardless of how fast they recover from what Celtics captain Paul Pierce dubbed "knickknack" injuries, it would seem both are unlikely to be 100 percent.

[+] EnlargeRasheed Wallace
Jason Miller/US PresswireRasheed Wallace came up big in Game 2, and he may be called upon to deliver an encore performance in Game 3 with Kevin Garnett and Kendrick Perkins hurting.

Which leaves one other certainty: The Celtics will need another big performance from their bench to compensate.

It doesn't particularly matter who steps up. In fact, recent history suggests that if any one of Boston's reserves elevates his game to a high level, it's usually enough to push the Celtics over the top.

Case in point: Tony Allen scored 14 points on 7-of-12 shooting in a Game 1 win over the Heat in the first round; Glen Davis registered 23 points and eight rebounds in a Game 2 win over Miami; Rasheed Wallace scored 17 points on 7-of-8 shooting in a Game 2 win over the Cavaliers.

Can that trend continue?

"It's gotta come from [a bench] guy, a guy that has been big for us in games," said Pierce. "Whether it's Big Baby [Davis], Marquis [Daniels], or [Tony Allen]."

Doc Rivers has been fond of challenging his players to respond on the big stage, and so far it's worked. Before Davis' Game 2 outburst against Miami, Rivers talked to the third-year forward about Milli Vanilli and alluded to one-hit wonders, hoping to inspire Davis on a night the team played without Garnett (one-game suspension).

Before Game 2 against Cleveland, Rivers wondered out loud how much longer he could lean on Wallace. The defense of Boston's top free-agent acquisition this past offseason had slipped so much in recent weeks, that Rivers considered utilizing Shelden Williams instead.

Wallace responded with one of his finest -- and definitely his most clutch -- performance in a Celtics uniform. Now his teammates want to see him do it again.

"Rasheed is a gamer," said Pierce. "He knows what he's capable of. He knows what he can do. What better time to have a big game than that? We could have been in a 2-0 hole coming back, but he came up big."

For his part, Wallace still didn't seem keen on talking about his performance Wednesday. Not only didn't he chat with reporters in the visitor's locker room following Boston's win Monday, but he looked to be making a break for the exit at Wednesday's practice before reporters stopped him for a minute.

Literally, a minute.

Wallace answered a few quick questions, then pulled the door he was slowly creeping behind shut as he escaped the crunch of cameras and microphones.

In that short time, Wallace suggested there was "no difference" in his play Monday from past games (even if there was offensive evidence to the contrary). When asked about Garnett's recent comments that he had a pep talk with Wallace in the showers, Wallace noted simply, "We've been talking all year."

Rivers thinks there might have been a little more to it.

"[The shower talk] probably screwed [Wallace] up," joked Rivers. "But if it works, I'm all for it. The guys talk to each other a lot, they really do. When a guy is not playing well for a team, obviously that guy has to have a meeting with the coaches at some point. But what's going to get the guy going more is his teammates.

"I didn't wake him up, but I need him to keep doing it. Maybe he went into the Hot Tub Time Machine. I don't know. He was good [in Game 2]. He keeps working. That's what I kept saying: he's got to keep working. He's had a good game, now we have to follow it up, but we need everyone to do that. That's just part of team basketball."

As a unit, Boston's bench has been a bit of a disappointment, in large part because of its inconsistency. This from a unit that, at the start of the season, held the key to Boston's championship aspirations.

Instead, Davis injured a thumb in an off-court incident and missed the first 27 games; Daniels injured a thumb midseason and missed 28 games, then never regained his confidence upon returning; Wallace underperformed all season, failing to live up to his lofty expectations; Allen started the season on the sideline with an ankle injury and only blossomed late in the season by focusing on defense; and Eddie House was traded to the New York Knicks for Nate Robinson, who has done little to distinguish himself since being acquired at the trade deadline.

Garnett said in a radio interview he suggested to Wallace that he -- and the other reserves -- could right a lot of wrongs by making himself a consistent presence in the postseason.

On Friday, Wallace will have another chance to do just that. And if he can simply become a factor in this series, point guard Rajon Rondo thinks the sky is the limit for Boston.

"[Wallace's] play spoke for itself -- he was big for us," said Rondo. "He doesn't have to score 20, or whatever he had [17 points]. If he can give us 10 [points], 10 [rebounds], we can definitely win the championship."

Chris Forsberg covers the Celtics for ESPNBoston.com. Follow him on Twitter.

Chris Forsberg

Celtics reporter, ESPNBoston.com

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