With just a handful of games left, there’s a hyper-focus on who might get minutes when the playoffs begin. Last night, Doc went with the big lineup he promised when he made Jeff Green a starter: Avery Bradley, Paul Pierce, Green, Brandon Bass, and Kevin Garnett. That moved Chris Wilcox to the bench, and created an interesting little “Shavlik Randolph vs. Wilcox” scenario.
Who would Doc go to? The new guy who, despite generating some excitement around here lately, is still a Chinese-league refugee who still makes some mistakes based on having played there this past season? Or would it be Wilcox who, despite a familiarity with the team, has been in and out of Doc’s dog house all year long?
When Randolph checked in first for Garnett last night, it seemed to give us the answer. Shav’s earning 6th man minutes, and Wilcox’s days are numbered.
But then Wilcox came back into the game, and he performed quite well. And, well, the confusion returned. Who was going to win the Shiv vs. Trill showdown?
Maybe, the answer is both of them.
“We went with Shav first,” Doc said after the game. “Then we were playing Chris with Kevin, which we think helps Chris.”
Randolph played just over 15 minutes last night, and none of them came with Garnett on the floor. He was, in the strictest sense, Garnett’s back up. In those 15 minutes, Randolph was in on 30 non-Garnett possessions. He hit both shots he took and took seven free throws (hitting four), giving him a true shooting percentage of .800. Randolph’s 1.60 points per possession was second only to Bass in those minutes Garnett was on the bench.
Randolph was by far the best rebounder on the floor last night, grabbing 23.3% of all available rebounds, 35.7% of the defensive rebounds, and 16.7% of the offensive rebounds. Without Garnett, Wilcox total rebound rate was 11.8, and he got no offensive rebounds.
But with Garnett on the floor, Wilcox’s TRR went up to 13, and his ORR matched Randolph’s at 16.7%.
Offensively, Wilcox’s numbers were almost even with and without Garnett, which is makes sense because Wilcox isn’t going to take many different shots no matter what, and he’s almost always going to be out there with a big like Garnett or Bass that will spread the floor and allow him space to work on pick and rolls or in transition. But it’s the rebounding and defense that will keep Wilcox on the floor come playoff time. In that roll, for at least one game, it helped.
“It worked tonight, and they’re a big team so I thought it’d be a good test case because of their size,” Doc said. “I thought it went pretty well. I think this is the first game in a while we didn’t go small at all.”
This is why the word “may” is important in the headline. Because this is just one game against the Wizards. But the Wizards have played pretty well after the All Star break, and they are a team whose size can bother the Celtics. And these days, with only five games left, we’re not going to get a huge sample size to make proper determinations. Randolph’s emergence is recent, and Garnett’s been sitting for a couple of weeks with that foot injury. So Doc’s only going to get a small sample to figure out what might work and what might not. Guys have a few games to earn a lot of trust come playoff time.
Randolph and Wilcox are at much different places in their careers. But if Doc plays his cards right, he can use Randolph’s self-motivation to help both of his bigs off the bench.
“I think [Randolph's] just going to play hard. Now when Chris is in, I think, yeah, he sees Shav playing and it’ll make him want to play better. I don’t think Shav needs to be encouraged to play hard, or better. He’s doing his best, getting knocked around, hit in the face, it’s great.”
Whether it’s motivation driven by losing minutes to a mid-season acquisition, or space opened up by Garnett’s presence on the floor, Wilcox performed in a new role last night. And that new role is made possible by Shavlik Randolph being able to handle things on his own while Garnett grabbed his necessary rest. While we don’t know yet if this is sustainable, it’s entirely possible that Randolph’s ability to hold the fort isn’t the death-knell for Wilcox’s time in Boston. It might just be what keeps him here.
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