Today's post is a guest post by Boston Celtics season ticket holder Rich Scaramozza. Rich has been a season ticket holder for a few years, long before Kevin Garnett and Ray Allen walked through that door. Send Sports Fan 4 an e-mail if you'd like to write a guest post.
A Tale of Two Benches
Saying that the Bulls bench has outplayed the Celtics bench would be an understatement. The Celtics have had to deal with severe injury problems in the second half of this season, which continued in their first round matchup when they lost Leon Powe after game 2. As a result of these injuries, they have their 6th man(Big Baby) starting, their 7th man(Powe) in street clothes, and have had to rely on a group of players that under normal circumstances would not see meaningful minutes in the playoffs.
The Bulls have the luxury of bringing two players off the bench who are more talented than anyone on the Celtics second unit. Kirk Hinrich and Brad Miller have both been regular starters in this league for several years and have been hurting the Celtics in almost every game. Besides the fact that he recently joined my list of NBA players that I hate, Brad Miller has been playing big, crunch-time minutes and performing when it counts with the exception of the free-throw debacle at the end of game 5.
The disparity in bench production is most harmful to the Celtics whenever Rajon Rondo is out of the game. Rondo has been amazing this entire series. Every time he leaves the game, when he comes back the scoreboard looks worse than when he left. The Celtics have no real backup point guard to run the offense when he's not out there and usually resort back to the one-on-one basketball that we all watched Paul Pierce perfect with those Jim O'Brien teams. If this team was completely healthy, they'd have enough firepower in the bench to play even or in the positive when the subs are in there but that has not been the case down the stretch. It seems every game someone different has been in foul trouble which forces Doc to go deeper into what is now a very weak bench.
Numbers Don't Lie
Throwing out game 3, which was the only game of this series thus far that wasn't an instant classic, there are some disturbing statistics on these two benches. For the Bulls these numbers are for Hinrich and Miller as they have played a bulk of the minutes and for the Celtics it has been more evenly spread playing time so they are for Marbury, Moore, House, Tony Allen, Powe, and Scal. Here's a look at the minutes played, points, and +/- numbers for the bench excluding the blowout in game 3:
Bench average in the series:
Bulls: 60 minutes, 23.6 points, +16.6
Celtics: 50.8 minutes, 10.2 points, -27.6
Bench average in Boston wins:
Bulls: 52 minutes, 23.5 points, +10
Celtics: 47 minutes, 7 points, -31.5
Bench average in Chicago wins:
Bulls: 65.3 minutes, 23.7 points, +21
Celtics: 53.3 minutes, 12.3 points, -25
So what did we learn here? With the exception of game 3, the Celtics bench has been consistently bad regardless of the outcome of the game. If anything, they have been slightly less bad (I couldn't bring myself to say "better") in the games they have lost. However, these games were ultimately decided by the starters and could have gone either way so you can't read much into this difference as it did not affect the end result.
So I would like to see one of two things from the bench:
- Slow down the Hinrich/Miller combination
- Someone actually step up and get hot on the offensive end.
The defense I would hope to come from Tony Allen except he's a liability on offense so it would offset. The offense I would hope to come from Eddie House only he has no chance covering any of the quicker guards on the Bulls so that would offset. So unless those two can combine forces and make one good bench player, our best shot lies with none other than Brian Scalabrine who plays solid team defense and can hit the occasional 3. Once I start saying things like "our best shot lies with Scal", it's time to hope that game 7 is close enough for the starters to decide it at the end.
[Editor's note: This post was written prior to Game 7 of the NBA series, which the Boston Celtics won 109-99. The Celtics moved onto the second round with 30 points coming off the bench, including Eddie House going 9 for 9 from the field with four three pointers. The C's bench played 62 minutes spread between House, Scalabrine, Marbury and Moore and went +22 for the night. Meanwhile Hinrich and Miller teamed up for 25 points off the Bulls bench over 57 minutes with Lindsay Hunter playing two scoreless minutes. The Bulls bench went -19 for the night. The final score of the game was 109-99.]