The bench marked by futility
Reserves remain upbeat for finale
LOS ANGELES — The Celtics’ bench helped carry the team to the NBA Finals. But the reserves dropped the ball last night, failing to score in the first three quarters of an 89-67 loss to the Los Angeles Lakers.
Not that Rasheed Wallace & Co. could have been expected to pull this one out — the Lakers were in control by the second quarter. But they could have kept things closer with a better performance.
“I’m very surprised, it’s just surprising,’’ Celtics guard Tony Allen said after the Lakers tied the series at three games apiece. “It’s the NBA Finals, I would have never thought we would come out this flat. We just did not have the energy. They were the harder team, they played harder, they boxed out harder, they hit the rebounds harder, they cut harder, they did everything harder. That’s just unusual . . . and if you don’t match that intensity, the game can be very long, real long.’’
The Celtics’ bench had chances to break its drought in the opening half, but Glen Davis missed two foul shots with a 40-23 deficit and Shelden Williams clanked a dunk with the Lakers leading by 20. With the game out of reach, Nate Robinson finally broke the bench’s scoreless streak, a reverse layup leading to a three-point play with 9:56 remaining.
But the reserves did not seem discouraged.
“This is what it’s all about,’’ Davis said. “I can’t wait to get on the floor. I’m confident. We understand what’s important. We’re going to go get it, we’ve got to go get it. We’ve went through so many ups and downs. Out of all the teams in the league, we’re the ones that struggled. We went through, ‘Oh, they can’t play. They’re fourth seed, they’ll get beat by Cleveland, they’ll get beat by Orlando.’ But we’re here now, in spite of what everybody else thinks. So, you think we’re going to let this go? No. We accept the challenge. We could have gave up a long time ago and looked forward to next year. But we’re here, so we’re going to take it while we’re here.
“We came out flat and they hit us hard. But that’s Game 6 and this is Game 7 — we’re not worried about Game 6.’’
Said Allen: “We’re definitely together, we’re going to do the same routine, go through the film session — X and O stuff — listen to Doc Rivers’s chin-checking, and we’re going to have to come with it in Game 7. Definitely where we want to be, definitely what training camp was about, definitely what the regular season was — those tests, and come for the final exam and this is it, and guys got to bring it.’’
Allen said the bench needs to rally the Celtics.
“They [the Lakers] set the tone, they won, basically, every quarter. We definitely have to be better as a bench but this next game is going to take all the guys on the roster to win.’’
Wallace replaced Kendrick Perkins (knee sprain) in the opening quarter, and Davis could fill the role tomorrow.
“When guys go down, it’s like all year, it’s an opportunity for the next man to step up,’’ Allen said. “It’s the NBA Finals. I mean, Kendrick Perkins is in our heart, I think that’s going to put fuel to the fire, I think we’re going to play harder to try to get it for Kendrick. Because, Lord knows, he wants to be out there . . . just hope he gets out there soon, I love him like a brother, just real unfortunate right now. I’m pretty sure he’ll be cheering us on in Game 7. He didn’t come back, so he’s probably not going to play Game 7.
“It didn’t take nothing out of us. I think they had the momentum from early on. And if we don’t come out ready to compete they’re going to have the edge all game. They played harder, they were the better team, and it showed. We had our chances but I think we’ve got to be more in tune on offensive sets, where we hang our hats is defensively, so we’ve just got to be more in tune as a group.’’
Frank Dell’Apa can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.