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Boston's backups validate Doc's faith

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Jeff Goodman

Jeff Goodman is a senior college basketball writer for FOXSports.com. Check out his Yardbarker blog. MORE>>
 
   
 

BOSTON

They are four of the most unreliable, unpredictable, unbalanced players in the entire league.

Rasheed Wallace, Nate Robinson, Tony Allen and Glen Davis.

A malcontent, a cast-off, a guy whose basketball I.Q. and character have been consistently called into question, and a rotund, overweight, undersized big man whose effort and commitment have been erratic.

Doc Rivers bet the NBA title on four knuckleheads.

And it paid off.

The Boston Celtics coach tossed the quartet out on the floor, along with future Hall of Famer Ray Allen, to start the fourth quarter with the Lakers holding a 62-60 lead.

When they departed, it was while holding an eight-point advantage, a lead that would not be in question for the final 2:51 as the Celtics tied the NBA Finals at 2-2 with a 96-89 victory on Thursday night.

The ultimate scenario Rivers played out in his mind was just to hold even while giving his three starters – Paul Pierce, Kevin Garnett and Rajon Rondo – a much-needed rest in the final quarter.

When Rivers snuck a peak at the scoreboard with 8:22 left in the game, following Davis’ three-point play, the Celtics' bunch of bench misfits had not only taken the lead but run it to 70-64.

It was just a matter of time before Rivers would pull this group before they screwed it up with something.

Then came the inevitable.

Wallace was slapped with a technical – his sixth of the postseason – after protesting a foul with a dance along the sidelines.

For some unexplainable reason, Rivers stuck with Wallace – who has been one of the biggest free agent busts of the last offseason and now sits one technical away from being suspended for a game – and the rest of group.

Wallace made Rivers look like a genius when he canned a 3-pointer with 6:18 remaining that pushed the lead to 79-70.

But less than a minute later, it was Robinson’s turn to get hit with a technical after trash-talking.

That had to be it, but Rivers had told himself and the coaching staff that the magic number was six. If the lead got whittled down to two possessions, the reserves would be done.

"I was really looking at the clock like, when is he going to come get me,” Davis said after the win.

"I was thinking the same thing,” Robinson added.

However, the clock continued to tick as Garnett was clad in his warmups, yelling on one knee with Rondo next to him and Pierce on all fours down the other end of the bench.

There was less than four minutes showing on the clock.

Someone needed to inform Rivers that this wasn’t some regular-season game in which Rivers would utilize the energy displayed by the second unit to make a point.

This was the season.

If the Celtics lost, they would be down 3-1 in the best-of-seven series and need to run off three straight – including a pair in Los Angeles.

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Finally, with less than three minutes left and Boston holding an eight-point lead, Rivers sent Pierce, Garnett and Rondo back to close out the game.

They may have been on the floor when the final buzzer sounded, but it was the group of maligned reserves who have given the Celtics renewed hope in this series.

It was Rivers who had faith in four players who haven’t always earned it.

Wallace was acquired by Danny Ainge to give the Celtics a veteran off the bench who could make shots and provide a matchup problem for opposing teams. Instead, he’s been brutal shooting the ball and has lived up to his reputation as a lazy, uninspired player.

Robinson was acquired in February after firmly entrenching himself in the New York Knicks' doghouse. In fact, he was so far in that he only played 11 minutes the entire month of December – and also got into just eight of the Celtics' first 13 playoff games.

Tony Allen looked to be on his way out of Boston due to a rash of injuries and also legal issues, but he’s matured and found a niche as a defensive specialist.

And Davis’ talent is unquestionable, a nimble 6-foot-8, 300-something pounder with quick feet and soft hands, but it’s been his weight, work ethic and immaturity that nearly led the Celtics to pass on re-signing him this past offseason.

Davis finished with 18 points, Tony Allen held Bryant to just one field goal in the final quarter (the other came with Allen on the bench), Wallace played the first 10:43 of the fourth and Robinson ran the show for more than nine minutes and didn’t turn over the ball once.

"I want to give Doc a hug, man,” Davis said.

"Tell him, 'thank you,’ added Robinson.

At a moment when most coaches would have relegated these guys to the sidelines as towel-wavers and cheerleaders, Rivers took a monumental risk.

It certainly could have backfired. Instead, it made Rivers look like a genius.

Tagged: Celtics, Paul Pierce, Ray Allen, Kevin Garnett, Rasheed Wallace, Tony Allen, Nate Robinson, Rajon Rondo, Glen Davis

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