BOSTON – For as long as the Boston Celtics have been winning under Brad Stevens, the team’s depth has been critical to that success.
It affords him the luxury to throw wave after wave after wave at opponents, a tried and true strategy of wearing teams down over time.
But there are times when head coach Brad Stevens will look to match his depth with certain matchups, and that at times results in more players watching from the bench … all night.
That was indeed the case on Wednesday night against Indiana, but you can’t knock the game plan considering how crucial that strategy would be to Boston pulling away for a 109-100 win over the Pacers.
Rotation regulars Terry Rozier and Jonas Jerebko did not play (coaches decision), as did Gerald Green whose status has fluctuated in and out of the rotation most of this season.
Stevens said the decision to shorten the player rotation was purely about matching up best with a physical Pacers team which is why 7-foot center Tyler Zeller saw more action than usual.
“This team was bigger,” Stevens said following the win. “The rebounding was a scary thing. Obviously, they hurt us on the glass big-time in the second half and I wanted a little bit more size.”
Having the ability to go deep into the bench and cater the rotation to a specific opponent is a luxury few NBA teams have at their disposal.
“We’re deep. We’ve been deep since I’ve been here,” said Boston’s Isaiah Thomas. “That’s one of the strengths but it’s also … it’s tough for Brad. You obviously want to play everybody and he can’t.”
Stevens knows all too well that the players that did not see action on Wednesday, aren’t happy about not playing.
But to their credit, each of them has been down this road before and while disappointed, they continue to prepare as though they will play the next time out.
“And I respect that,” Stevens said. “And that’s hard. But we’re going to need all those guys and we’re going to need them to be playing great.”
Here are the Stars, Studs and Duds from Wednesday’s game between Boston and Indiana.
It was another dominant scoring night for George who reminded us all that he was indeed the best player on the floor. He led all scorers with 37 points on 11-for-26 shooting with five rebounds and three steals.
The contributions of others is allowing Thomas to play more manageable minutes and just as important, rest for long stretches in the fourth quarter. He still managed to lead the Celtics with 25 points on 9-for-21 shooting with five assists, a steal and a blocked shot.
Isaiah Thomas had problems early on keeping up with Teague, and that seemed to be just what Teague needed to get going and frankly, not slow down. He had 25 points on 10-for-15 shooting with six assists and a steal.
One of the triumvirate of defenders used by Boston on Paul George, Bradley had 18 points on 7-for-13 shooting with eight rebounds and two assists.
The big nights for Olynyk are starting to become the rule and not so much the exception. He had a near double-double with 11 points on 5-for-6 shooting to go with eight rebounds and four assists.
Six points and three rebounds may not seem like that big a deal. But Zeller’s play once again, even in limited spurts, was one of the keys to Boston coming away with the win. Despite playing fewer minutes than any Celtic off the bench, he had a plus/minus of +8 which was second among reserves only to Kelly Olynyk (+12).
Boston did a much better job at limiting turnovers in the second half, but the damage had already been done with 14 – that’s more than their season average of 13.2 – in the first half.
Celtics defensive boards
Boston was very fortunate that second-chance points didn’t become a bigger factor considering the Pacers had 18 offensive rebounds but only got 15 second-chance points compared to the Celtics who grabbed 10 offensive rebounds which led to 12 second-chance points.