Doc Rivers has been telling anybody who would listen that Stephon Marbury, would someday win a game for them. Tuesday night, he did just that, holding down the fort in the fourth quarter and setting up a 13-0 Celtics run that gave them a 92-88 run in Game 5 of the Eastern Conference Semifinals and a 3-2 series lead.
His 12 fourth-quarter points kept the Celtics afloat, and after months of struggling with his shot, Marbury finally showed everyone exactly why he's wearing green.
"He showed you some of the things that he can do and we believe in him," Paul Pierce said of the midseason acquisition. "That's why we picked him up and this is the reason why we win today's game."
Stephon Marbury didn't lead the Celtics comeback on the scoreboard, but he's the player everyone praised in postgame.Elsa/NBAE/Getty
It was a key stretch that was reminiscent of one defining moment from last year's championship run.
In 18 games with the Celtics, P.J. Brown averaged 2.2 points per game. Having been brought in just after the All-Star break, his impact was that of a veteran presence rather than game changer. But all the same, with the Celtics holding a small lead late in Game 7 against the Cleveland Cavaliers last year, it was Brown who made a putback and a jumper to give Boston a three-point lead with under 90 seconds to play.
It was, for all intents and purposes, the single greatest contribution Brown made on the floor during the Championship run.
Similarly, Game 5 of the Eastern Conference Semifinals could, from now on, be known as the reason Marbury is a Celtic.
Marbury's box score -- 12 points, 2 assists and nothing else -- hardly jumps off the page. In fact, the points weren't even part of an actual run. But what Marbury did do in scoring nine consecutive points to begin the period was stave off the Orlando Magic and keep the Celtics alive. In short, without Marbury trading buckets with Orlando for six minutes, the Celtics have a hole too deep to overcome.
"That game could've gone from nine to fifteen," Doc Rivers said. "Stephon Marbury and Big Baby, in that one stretch kept us alive, gave us hope."
Looking back during the long days of summer, that boost might prove to be the defining moment of the Marbury era, because not only did he give his team hope, he gave the Garden crowd exactly what they needed. No longer was the crowd jeering after passed up open shots in favor of tougher ones. Instead, it cheered him on as he hit four jumpers in succession.
"Things weren't going right, and we're looking for an answer," Glen Davis said. "That's one of the parts of the definition of Ubuntu, you know, you help others, and motivate others, and that's what Stephon Marbury did."
The scoring total was Marbury's second highest in a season when he's often seemed to be battling himself more than any defense. Since his arrival in late February, he has said all the right things and, by all accounts, been the consummate teammate. But after a year-long layoff from regular-season hoops, his game never seemed to catch up. Every time he got a rhythm going, a missed jumper would kick the drums over.
"I wouldn't it consider it being a monkey off my back because I'm playing basketball this year," Marbury said. "For me that was enough, from where I was, so just being able to get back on the court after not playing a whole year, I'm blessed."
Transitioning to a new role off the bench certainly never helped Marbury return to form. While starter's minutes allow rusty players coming off an injury to play themselves back into a groove, substitutes must either perform or sit down. Tonight, the hook never threatened to come in from stage left.
"He's been very patient. This is tough for him," Rivers said. "He's never been taken out to put starters him. That's always been him going in, and he's been able to handle it well and be a great teammate."
Going forward, Marbury has a chance to do more than that. While four points from Brown overshadowed anything else he did in a green uniform -- a legend, of sorts, that preceded him -- Marbury could contribute greatly to an unlikely playoff run.
"I think for me the mindset and the focus is to see the big picture. Doc [asked us], he said when you look at a puzzle, what's the most important thing?" Marbury said. "He was saying the picture, that's the most important thing. And the big picture is to win the championship."
All Marbury's got to do is play his role and make good on the opportunities afforded to him. But first you have to take the shots, then you have make them. In Game 5, Marbury did both and kept the Celtics alive in a playoff win. After all, that's what they signed him for.