Commentary

Greg Stiemsma joins fun for Celtics

Rookie center makes first impact of series, helping hold down Sixers

Updated: May 22, 2012, 3:07 AM ET
By Chris Forsberg | ESPNBoston.com

BOSTON -- It's almost like Boston Celtics rookie center Greg Stiemsma knew Monday's Game 5 of the Eastern Conference semifinals against the Philadelphia 76ers was going to be a big one for him. Which would be no small feat on its own, considering he didn't get off the pine last time out.

But there was Stiemsma, debuting a pair of thick black Dolce & Gabbana hipster frames, the sort that -- when red and paired with a bold fishing shirt -- might garner one national attention.

[+] EnlargeGreg Stiemsma
Brian Babineau/NBAE/Getty ImagesGreg Stiemsma's big first-quarter outburst helped keep the Celtics in the game.

Stiemsma's effort might have blended into the scenery a bit -- the rest of his postgame outfit was not nearly gaudy enough to wrestle attention away from the efforts of teammates Brandon Bass or Rajon Rondo. But Stiemsma deserved some extra eyes on him after his first-half efforts in helping Boston to a 101-85 triumph at TD Garden.

The Celtics lead the series 3-2, with a chance to close it out in Game 6 on Wednesday night in Philadelphia.

Stiemsma chipped in 10 points on 5-of-5 shooting with 3 blocks and 2 rebounds over 13:52. Most of that output came in a spirited six-minute first-quarter stint that gave Boston much-needed life as it plodded through the first half and was lucky to be within a possession at the intermission.

"Tonight was another opportunity," Stiemsma said. "It's been like that the whole season. For the most part, I feel like I've taken advantage of it, and tonight was just another one of those nights where I got some looks early, got myself going, and I was just happy we won at the end."

In a series in which the Celtics have chosen to go small to match up with the 76ers at times, Stiemsma's minutes have been limited, culminating with his first real DNP in nearly two months during Friday's Game 4 loss in Philadelphia.

Entering Game 5, Stiemsma had played a mere 24 minutes in the series, chipping in only one bucket, four rebounds and two blocks.

It took a mere 50 seconds of court time Monday for Stiemsma to double his offensive output. Subbing for Kevin Garnett with 5:46 to play in the first quarter (and the Celtics down a point), Stiemsma went hard at the basket and laid in a bucket over Elton Brand.

Next trip down, Brand and Lavoy Allen lost track of Stiemsma, who got a feed from Rondo at the right block and delivered an emphatic two-handed jam.

On a night that Garnett had yet to get cranking (that would come later), Stiemsma showed him how to be aggressive against an undersized Philadelphia frontcourt.

"When you've got Rondo at the point, you're going to find shots," Stiemsma said. "He's going to get you open shots where, literally, you're standing under the basket and just dunk the ball. It makes it pretty easy, especially when you get in there, first couple of possessions, get a couple of buckets, that really seemed to ease everything up and slow everything down."

Whether he admits it or not, Stiemsma needed a confidence jolt. Still dinged up entering the playoffs, he struggled a bit at the start of the first-round series with the Atlanta Hawks and lost minutes to Ryan Hollins. Stiemsma started to come out of that funk a bit by the end of the first round, only to run into a 76ers squad that makes it tough to keep multiple big bodies on the floor.

After going small to match up early in this series, the Celtics tried staying big at times in Game 5, and it paid dividends. Brandon Bass produced a monster third quarter to allow Boston to run away, but it might not have been possible if Stiemsma hadn't earlier held the fort.

"The points by the Steamer in the first half were big," Celtics coach Doc Rivers said. "Just all the little baskets, just to keep us around because, strange to say, but you felt like there was a chance early on that they could stretch this game if we didn't get it right."

For Bass and Stiemsma, this might have been their Shrek & Donkey game (thankfully, neither leaped on the other's back and slobbered all over the Garden parquet like Glen Davis did with Nate Robinson perched on him during Game 4 against the Los Angeles Lakers in the 2010 NBA Finals).

Stiemsma emerged as a key contributor late in the regular season and has potential to play a bigger role if the Celtics are able to advance further into the postseason. Monday's effort could be a turning point for him.

Stiemsma said he hasn't let the lack of playing time affect his confidence. But he admitted it felt good to contribute.

"It's playoff time, so as long as we're winning, I'm happy," he said. "It's tough to see us struggle, but at the same time, I don't feel like I was quite playing the same way I was at the end of the year either. So it felt good to get out there again tonight and kind of feel comfortable and get into the flow of the game."

Chris Forsberg

Celtics reporter, ESPNBoston.com

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