|Kevin Garnett and Brandon Bass combine for 47 points to lead the Celtics. (US Presswire)|
BOSTON -- Brandon Bass sat down in the chair following his most memorable night in an NBA uniform, sweat pouring down his forehead from the nerves of facing the throng of media for the first time since he arrived in Boston this past December. The last time an undersized former LSU Tiger took the stage it became a full-fledged show starring Glen "Big Baby" Davis -- and this one didn't quite play out in the same manner.
Bass was modest, humble and mellow following his 27-point, six-rebound performance that may have saved the Celtics' season.
"I didn't know that," Bass said with a look of disbelief when informed he had 18 points in the third quarter, a 12-minute stretch that proved the difference in Boston's 101-85 victory over Philadelphia in Game 5.
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The Celtics were treading water in the first half, lethargic without the high-octane defense of Avery Bradley -- who was out after yet again re-aggravating a shoulder injury. Ray Allen was completely ineffective and Paul Pierce was a non-factor for much of the game. These guys were 24 minutes away from traveling to Philly with their backs against the wall, potentially down 3-to-2 in the best-of-seven series and being forced to win two straight to advance to the Eastern Conference finals.
But it was Bass, who was brought to the Celtics in a December trade for Big Baby just prior to the start of the season, who delivered in the clutch and may have extended the Big Three's career.
"I'm grateful," he said after the game.
So is Danny Ainge -- who somehow found a way to unload the enigmatic Davis for the more even-keeled Bass. Davis was difficult to coach, with his unpredictable nature and always yearning -- no, clamoring -- for an expanded role. Doc Rivers and the rest of the organization had enough of the immature Davis, and Ainge found a taker in Dwight Howard and the Orlando Magic.
In return, the Celtics added a six-year veteran in Bass, who like Davis, was also a former second round pick out of Baton Rouge, La. who fell in the draft because of being considered a tweener.
While Davis had worn out his welcome in Boston after four seasons, one aspect in which he thrived was his ability to deliver with the bright lights shining in the postseason. He was terrific in the 2009 playoffs against Chicago and Orlando, averaging 15.8 points with Kevin Garnett on the sidelines. The next season, with his playing time limited, he went for 23 in Game 2 of the opening round against Miami. Davis also finished with 15 in a Game 5 victory over Cleveland in the Eastern Conference semifinals, had 17 points in Game 3 against Orlando in the conference finals and came up with 18 points in a Game 4 win over the Lakers in the NBA Finals.
With the Celtics dealing with multiple injuries to Pierce, Allen and Bradley, they needed Bass to channel his inner Davis and come up with one of those playoff moments.
That's exactly what he did.
The young 76ers came out the aggressor on Monday night and although they lead by only three points entering the third quarter, this was a team clearly in command of the game. Their confidence was rising, until Bass changed the complexion of the entire game.
"He played with the right spirit," Rivers said.
"He made shots and he was the one who got them going," Philadelphia's Evan Turner admitted.
It started with a pair of free throws early in the third. Then he stepped out and knocked down a 12-footer. His steal and two free throws with 6:38 left tied the game at 57 and then he gave Boston the lead for good on a dunk with 5:44 remaining in the quarter. There were a couple more deep jumpers, two more dunks and a couple more foul shots -- and before you knew it, the mild-mannered forward had outscored the 76ers all by himself.
But there was no yelling and screaming. No chest-pounding.
That's what the last guy did.
Bass is a blue-collar guy. As much as Davis prodded for the spotlight, Bass is at ease deflecting the attention. He has remained on the bench for the fourth quarter in many of the playoff games thus far and remained focused and ready, instead of making waves with his displeasure that he hasn't been given much of an opportunity in crunch-time.
"My motto is guard, grind and greatness," Bass said just before leaving the arena.
Bass played true to all three on Monday night to lead a lethargic-looking Boston Celtics group to a victory, one that pushed the 76ers to the brink of elimination.
Davis was likely somewhere watching.