|Dealing with hand and foot injuries, Paul Pierce was a nonfactor on offense, missing all 10 field goal attempts. (Matthew J. Lee/Globe Staff)|
There was no substitution for reserves
The Celtics had been hoping Von Wafer occasionally would provide double-figure scoring off the bench this season. But they hoped such production would be more of a luxury than a necessity.
On a day when Paul Pierce would score only 1 point, though, the Celtics needed just about every one of Wafer’s 10 points in an 85-82 victory over Miami yesterday at TD Garden.
When Pierce was clanging away in the opening half, the Celtics’ reserves kept the team in contention. Then, when nearly every other Celtic was following Pierce’s example, Wafer hit two 3-pointers in a two-minute period spanning the final two quarters to help maintain the advantage.
“If you had told me [Pierce] was going to go 0 for 10 before the game I would have thought our chances were slim,’’ Wafer said. “But it doesn’t surprise me, because we’re loaded. We’ve got a lot of guys who can play.’’
Wafer shot 4 for 5 from the field in less than 14 minutes of playing time. The Celtics lost to the Lakers Thursday night in a game that was decided above the rim, but this contest was a below-the-rim affair, and Wafer capitalized with aggressive defending. Both Wafer and Glen Davis (16 points) had two steals, double the starters’ steal total, exemplifying the aggressive play of the shorthanded second team.
“I wouldn’t say how many guys it was, it doesn’t matter how many guys, it’s how you play the game,’’ Davis said. “We were out there playing the game hard. The second team set the tempo for the rest of the game. We were out there playing hard, getting some layups, dunks. It doesn’t matter, the offensive side — we were getting our hands on balls. It changed the game. It didn’t matter who was on the court, we were playing hard.
“I told myself I’m going to shoot the ball and don’t worry about anything else after that but getting back on defense. That’s what I did. I was aggressive. I didn’t care where the ball was, if I felt like I could get in the offense, I did it. When you set the tone like that, that inner character comes out.’’
The Celtics went on a 20-3 run in the opening 5:15 of the second half.
“That was huge,’’ Davis said. “We needed that to separate ourselves from them, and make sure that, when it came down to the fourth quarter, we had enough of a lead to win the game. We did a great job of making shots and doing what we had to do. Von Wafer goes out there and plays a great game; he’s one of the big reasons why we won.’’
But even a double-figure lead was not completely safe against the Heat. After Davis’s drive made it 69-59 with 1:22 remaining in the third quarter, the Celtics — except for Wafer — went cold. Wafer’s 3-pointer with 29.3 seconds to go in the quarter gave the Celtics a 74-61 edge. Wafer got a second-chance 3-pointer for the Celtics’ first field goal of the final quarter and a 77-65 advantage. But those would be the Celtics’ only field goals over a 6:26 span covering the final two quarters, before Kevin Garnett’s jumper at the shot-clock buzzer provided a 79-71 lead with 6:56 remaining.
The Celtics’ starters then took over. But they needed Davis to provide two clinching foul shots in the closing seconds.
“We’re trying to be the best team in the NBA and we’ve got a lot of things to conquer, injuries,’’ Davis said. “We’re just trying to get better every day.
“It’s just us collectively as a group, our coaching staff, our team, the way we police ourselves on the court. We stay within our principles, the way we hold everyone accountable in their job.’’
Still, who would have expected the Celtics to win, with only two bench players available for significant minutes, and both outscoring Pierce?
“It would be tough, I wouldn’t bet my house on it,’’ Davis said. “But at the end of day, we also have a lot of people who can play the game. That’s the great thing about having a lot of players on the team who can step up.’’
Frank Dell’Apa can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.