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Celtics will need Wallace to step forward

Posted by Christopher L. Gasper, Globe Staff  April 21, 2010 01:31 PM

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After the Celtics 106-77 disco music-inducing dismantling of the Miami Heat last night, Rasheed Wallace slipped on a Philadelphia Phillies cap and slipped out of the locker room, ceding the floor -- as he did during the game -- to Glen "Big Baby" Davis.

"Talk to Baby. He's the star of the game," said Wallace cordially as he walked out to meet his waiting family.

The gregarious Davis, who made up for the absence of a suspended Kevin Garnett by pouring in 23 points and grabbing eight rebounds in 29 minutes of alacritous action, was more than happy to hold court with the media at his locker, even though he had previously recounted his performance at the podium.

The arrangement was fine for last night, but at some point in these playoffs Wallace has to be heard from on the court -- and not just pleading his case to an official -- or like him the Celtics will go out silently into the night. They cannot return to the NBA Finals if all they're going to get out of Big Shot 'Sheed is the combined 10 points and 6 rebounds they've gotten in the first two games of their Eastern Conference playoff series.

They need him to be the versatile, accomplished, clutch veteran presence off the bench he was billed as when he came to Boston, not the barely visible one he has been so far. As Mark Jackson would say, Rasheed Wallace you're better than that.

Wallace said he and the Celtics would be ready when it was time for the "big-boy shots." While the Celtics have turned up their game in the postseason, we're still waiting on Wallace.

If the Celtics believed they could get by simply with Big Baby then they wouldn't have sent a Green convoy to Casa Wallace in Michigan last summer to convince him to come to Boston.

Davis had five 20-plus point games in the playoffs last year. The Celtics still lost in seven games to the Orlando Magic in the Eastern Conference semifinals. Miami's Michael Beasley is too unpolished to take advantage of Davis, but teams like Orlando and Cleveland can attack Davis's lack of length with taller, more athletic, more skilled power forwards in Rashard Lewis and Antawn Jamison.

The question is can Wallace do what he was brought here to do? There is a lot of evidence from his playoff résumé that says he can, but there is little evidence from his brief Celtics career to say he will.

The 35-year-old has had a difficult adjustment to coming off the bench -- he started a career-low 13 games this season, after being a reserve in just eight games total in five-plus seasons with the Pistons and never in the playoffs. He is still trying to grasp the Celtics complex system of defensive rules and rotations, and often doesn't look completely comfortable on offense either.

It was telling that three of the players the Celtics acquired to boost their bench -- Wallace, Marquis Daniels and Nate Robinson -- were all on the court during garbage time of the blowout win over the Heat.

"Hey, Rasheed Wallace is more [than] capable of delivering for us," said Davis. "He is here for a reason. He knows that. We know what he can do. We're not worried about 'Sheed. We're just worried about ourselves as a team, making sure that we do what we have to do as a team to get wins like this."

Center Kendrick Perkins, who anchored the Celtics defense with KG at home, also offered a verbal vote of confidence.

"I think each night a different guy is going to step up in the playoffs. You never know.  Each guy has got stay ready," said Perkins. "I'm expecting big things out of Rasheed. He's been around a long time. The thing I did like out of Rasheed [last night] is that he came in and played defense well, rebounded well."

The last part is debatable. After three quarters, when the Celtics led, 85-59, Wallace had 2 points, 2 rebound and two fouls. Playing the entire fourth quarter, he finished with a respectable 6 points and 5 boards, but was a minus-12 for the night.

Wallace entered the game for Perkins with 4:04 left in the first quarter and the Celtics were up 15-10. Davis was at the foul line for two free throws, so the lead grew to 17-10. When Wallace checked out with 9:27 left in the first half, the Celtics trailed, 29-25.

Wallace missed his first shot, a jumper from the right side, and picked up a technical foul. He didn't grab a rebound in the first quarter.

In the second quarter, Wallace hit a picturesque, fadeaway turnaround jumper from the baseline, but he also was late on a rotation that led to a Jermaine O'Neal dunk over him -- plus a foul -- and Miami's four-point lead. In his defense, O'Neal had caught him with a knee in the stomach on the other end; the officials should have stopped play for his injury, but did not.

It was after Wallace went out that the Celtics ripped off a 21-0 run to take a 46-29 lead and control of the game. An 18-0 third quarter run that established a 32-point lead also came sans 'Sheed.

Perkins said the Celtics need X-factor performances from their rotation players. They got one in Game 1 from Tony Allen, who had 14 points. Last night, they got it from Davis, forced into the starting lineup by KG's errant elbow. At some point, they need it from Wallace.

"A lot of teams have wild card players off the bench," said Perkins. "Denver has J.R. Smith. Cleveland has a few guys. We were wondering who those guys would be for us. Right now, it's Baby and T.A."

Wallace remains the ultimate wild card for the Celtics. 
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The word

Christopher L. Gasper riffs on the news

Dearth

...That's what the Patriots have when it comes to picks in the 2013 NFL Draft, which starts Thursday. After all those years of stockpiling picks the way a survivalist does non-perishables the Patriots have just five picks in this year's draft, thanks to Band-aid trades for Albert Haynesworth, Chad Ochocinco and Aqib Talib. Five picks would be the fewest draft picks in franchise history. (Part of that is attributable to the trimming of the draft to just seven rounds in 1994). Further complicating matters is that two of the Patriots' greatest needs are at wide receiver and cornerback, positions where they have sustained draft droughts. With that in mind, I'm convinced the Patriots are going trade back out of the first round of a quanity-over-quality draft where you're just as likely to pick a Pro Bowl player in the second and third round as you are in the first round.

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