When Paul Pierce and the Boston starters need a rest in the NBA Finals, they can watch their replacements with confidence, just as they did two years ago against the same opponent, the Los Angeles Lakers.
Boston’s key backups have changed since then. The importance of their contributions hasn’t.
“Somewhere along the line these guys that are role players that people don’t really talk about come along and help us win games,” Pierce said. “They really get overlooked.”
The Celtics, after two days off, return to practice today to prepare for Thursday’s NBA Finals opener at Los Angeles with the same starters they had in 2008.
But substitutes Rasheed Wallace, Glen “Big Baby” Davis, Tony Allen and Nate Robinson now fill roles James Posey, P.J. Brown, Leon Powe, Eddie House and Sam Cassell had when the Celtics won their 17th championship.
“We call ourselves the ‘Clenched fist,’ ” Davis said, “because when you clench your fist, you become strong.
CAN KOBE RISE UP?
Opposing coaches call it the rise-up, and nobody does it better than Kobe Bryant.
Bryant hit it against Grant Hill in the final minute of the Lakers’ conference-clinching victory over the Phoenix Suns on Saturday night, putting his signature on a 37-point performance that sent Los Angeles into the NBA Finals with a chance for revenge on Boston.
Even with Hill right in his grill, Bryant leaped up and away from the veteran forward and drilled a clinching 23-footer. The Lakers will need more brilliance from Bryant, who’s enjoying possibly his most impressive playoff run.
“I just had to create a little bit of space,” said Bryant. “I had a good look.”
Bryant has scored at least 30 points in 10 of the past 11 games, willing a team with an injured center and a thin bench into its third straight NBA Finals.
“It’s a sexy matchup,” Bryant said. “We’re looking forward to this challenge, looking forward to the test.”
Boston at L.A. Lakers, 6 p.m., Ch. 4 (series opener)