Davis propels second-stringers
CLEVELAND — In a small way, last night’s game against the Cavaliers was a test for the Celtics’ second unit.
It recently has been rocked by injuries — first to Jermaine O’Neal, then Delonte West — and whatever continuity it had developed disappeared the past few games as the starters built early leads and the reserves gave them away.
Coach Doc Rivers tried to push Glen Davis’s buttons, knowing that for three years he has been the constant in the second group. But he also called out the reserves as a whole.
They responded by combining for 43 points in Boston’s 106-87 win over the Cavs, coming to the rescue on a night in which Paul Pierce (11 points on 4-of-7 shooting in 23 minutes) and Ray Allen (12 points on 5-of-10 shooting in 23 minutes) were relatively quiet.
After falling behind early, the Celtics outscored the Cavs, 35-22, in the second quarter, with the bench fueling the turnaround.
“When the second unit came in, they got to what we were trying to do to start the game,’’ Rivers said. “They pounded it down low with Baby and Marquis [Daniels]. I thought those were the two guys that changed the game for us.’’
Rivers had given Davis a not-so-subtle nudge, saying the forward was trying to do too much the past three games. Last night, from his defense to his 17 points and 11 rebounds, he gave what the coach was looking for.
“He was absolutely sensational,’’ Rivers said. “Defensively, he challenged shots and offensively, he was patient.
“I thought he set the tone early on. We got on him about quick shots and I thought in the first half, he passed up two quick shots. Set another pick and got someone else the shot. He’s just got to trust that the ball will come back to him.
“We are an extremely unselfish team, and I thought he learned that [last night].’’
Daniels had 16 points on 7-of-10 shooting.
“He surprises me and he upsets me,’’ Rivers said, grinning. “I know he can do it every night and I’m going to stay on him because I think he has that in him. I think he can be that terrific every single night. I really do.’’
With the Celtics holding an 80-65 lead entering the fourth quarter, Pierce told the second unit he didn’t want to come back into the game. Pierce, Allen, and Shaquille O’Neal didn’t play a second in the fourth.
“The entire bench was great and they saved us,’’ Rivers said.
Rondo not tested Knowing that Rajon Rondo was nursing a couple of injuries (hamstring and foot), Cavaliers coach Byron Scott was asked how he would deal with the Celtics point guard. “You talking about now or you talking about in the ’80s?’’ Scott said. Scott, who won titles with the Lakers in the ’80s, indicated that Rondo would have been in for a pounding had this been his era. “If it was a leg injury, we would just test it out — in a number of ways,’’ Scott said. “Hand injury, arm injury, anything that we saw padding, we would test it out. But we can’t do that. Obviously, the rules have changed to make sure it doesn’t get out of hand. But I’m biased. I played in the ’80s. I’m kind of biased.’’ Rondo had 23 points and 12 assists in 38 minutes.
West has wrist surgery Delonte West underwent surgery on his broken right wrist yesterday at New England Baptist Hospital. Rivers didn’t have a timetable for West’s return. “I’ve heard anywhere from two to three months or longer,’’ he said. “That’s a tough one for us.’’ In the meantime, he’ll juggle the second unit. “My plan going into the year was to literally have two units — a starting unit and a second unit — because of the age of our team. Not what we wanted, but the season takes its own turns and you just have to adjust to it.’’
Shaq missed a sign O’Neal’s absence from practice Monday was simply the result of a misunderstanding, and the big man said he apologized to the Big Three for the confusion. Following Friday’s win over Toronto, O’Neal said, he read on the message board that the flight to Cleveland was at 3 p.m. But written above it was “practice noon,’’ which O’Neal said he did not see. “It was a miscommunication,’’ said O’Neal, who was in the starting lineup last night. “The only thing I saw on the board was flight at 3. That’s all. I never miss practice. That’s OK, I’ll take my fine like a man and we move on. It ain’t nothing.’’ O’Neal said he reached out to Pierce, Allen, and Kevin Garnett. “I apologized to the Big Three but not anyone else,’’ he said.
Julian Benbow can be reached at email@example.com.