It seems as though every spring a role player breaks out on the playoff stage, lifting his team to a victory and his own profile at the same time. Brandon Bass became the latest member of that club; scoring 27 points in Boston’s 101-85 Game 5 win over Philadelphia.
Bass, who had never previously scored 20 points in the playoff game, put up 18 in the third quarter alone as Boston took control of the contest. Bass, a seven-year veteran, had not led his team in scoring this season until this pivotal game.
A reporter pointed out to Bass, who was granted a podium interview for the first time, that you usually hear names like Kobe and LeBron associated with 18-point quarters. Bass had no idea he had exploded to that degree.
“I didn’t know that, I didn’t know that,” Bass said with a shocked look and huge smile across his face. “It’s a blessing for me. It’s just hard work, you know I’ve been working at it for a long time and I’m grateful that it was able to pay off for me.”
The Celtics are a disciplined, veteran team led by The Big Four of Rajon Rondo, Paul Pierce, Kevin Garnett and Ray Allen. Those four don’t lack confidence by any means even if they have their own individual ways of showing it.
Bass has offset the prevailing attitude in the locker room nicely in his first season with the Celtics, who acquired him from the Magic in exchange for Glen Davis. Often times, he is the only member of the regular rotation that makes himself accessible to the media for huge chunks of time prior to games.
The irony in that is how uncomfortable Bass can be with any sort of attention. During the first week of the regular season, I remember the look on his face when a pack of reporters swarmed his locker. Upon being informed that “this is Boston” his face transformed into that of a kid introduced to one of his parent’s co-workers. Please, don’t get me in trouble.
The Louisiana native -- his roots are evident in his Southern accent -- scored 20 points just five times in the regular season. His effort against the 76ers matched his career-high in points, which came on Dec. 3, 2010 against the Pistons.
“It was just me taking advantage of my opportunity.” Bass said. “They’ve been doubling Paul and we got a few good players on this team that they got to focus on … they left me open [Monday] and I was able to hit the shots.”
Calling Bass a role player is a label that fits in some ways, but not others. He started 39 of the 59 games he appeared in during the regular season and was on the court for the tip-off on Monday night. Still, he has a defined role for Doc Rivers: grab rebounds, defend well and spread the floor with his midrange jumper.
If you didn’t watch Game 5 and were informed of the final score, it would take you at least five guesses to correctly identify which Celtic dominated the third quarter and finished with 27 points and six rebounds. Bass played 37 minutes in Boston’s most meaningful game of the season, a total he hadn’t logged in more than a month.
It not as though Bass, known as “No Pass Bass” because of his tendency to shoot once he receives the basketball, shot with reckless abandon either. He was 9-for-13 from the field and 9-for-10 from the foul line. Philadelphia attempted 16 free throws as a team.
“To be honest with you, I haven’t really thought about it,” Bass said when asked if he had played the best game of his career. “Maybe once it settles in, or after we get the next win I’ll consider that, but I just want to keep going and continue to help my teammates in any way I can.”
That Bass was acquired for Davis, who had big moments of his own for the Celtics in the playoffs, is somewhat ironic. Davis, pound-for-pound, has one of the biggest personalities in the NBA. Earlier this postseason against the Pacers, Davis high-stepped back on defense and gave a unique halftime interview to NBATV after a big first half.
The Magic lost that game and Davis finished with 22 points on 10-for-18 shooting. Bass was more efficient and led his team to victory.
Bass has earned himself a few million dollars this summer. He holds a $4.3 million player option for next season, but will almost certainly find a long-term deal on the market whether it comes from the Celtics or not.
“This is the first time for me for a lot of things,” he said at the podium. “I’m grateful. That’s probably why you see all these beads on my forehead because I’m a little nervous, but I’m grateful.”
In a little more than a month, Bass will be grateful for his performance when figures are exchanged by prospective teams and his agent.