By Marc D'Amico
October 31, 2012
MIAMI – There was one major positive that came out of Boston's loss Tuesday night in Miami: Leandro Barbosa.
It’s not often that the last man added to a roster in October winds up being a critical player on that team, but Barbosa may buck that trend with Boston. He joined the Celtics less than two weeks ago, so late that he couldn’t even participate in a single preseason game. But that late arrival didn’t prevent him from throwing the Heat into a tailspin Tuesday night.
Leandro Barbosa came off of the bench Tuesday night and hit six of his eight shot attempts.
Issac Baldizon/NBAE/Getty Images
Barbosa came off of the bench for the C’s and lit Miami up when his team needed it most. He scored 16 points in just 16 minutes of play and helped Boston turn what looked like an insurmountable deficit into a very possible win.
The Celtics trailed by 15 points when Barbosa checked into the game with 16 seconds left in the third quarter. Doc Rivers never took him out of the game from that point on due to the immediate impact the Brazilian Blur made.
Miami fell asleep on Barbosa and left him open on several consecutive possessions at the start of the fourth quarter. The Heat found out quickly that they should have never let that happen.
Barbosa capitalized on all of his open looks by drilling his first six field goal attempts of the fourth quarter in addition to one free throw. He scored the first nine points of the quarter for Boston, helping to swing substantial momentum in his team’s favor.
Barbosa’s streak of scoring didn’t necessarily change the tune of the scoreboard – the Celtics still trailed by 15 after those nine points – but it did change the tenor of the game. The Celtics caught a groove at both ends of the floor and their confidence followed suit.
Before you knew it, the blowout had turned into a legitimate contest down the stretch. Boston’s once-19 point deficit was trimmed all the way down to four when Courtney Lee put home a fast break layup with 2:33 remaining in the game.
That was the moment when the heat was turned up in Miami. The home team was undoubtedly sweating bullets.
Credit must be dolled out to the Heat for responding to their near-debacle. They reversed their course and blew the game back open by scoring the final nine points of the game to win 120-107.
Miami may have won, but that will not negate the fact that Barbosa was an absolute game changer off of the bench for Boston. As Rivers said after the game, Barbosa was his team’s savior.
“He bailed us out,” Rivers said. “I mean, we got back in that game down the stretch and it was because Barbosa was on the floor.”
We saw Rivers use Barbosa in a role that caters perfectly to the speedy guard’s skills. Barbosa is a former Sixth Man of the Year who has been a scorer at every stop of his career. The Celtics brought him in knowing that he provides instant offense off of the bench, and that’s exactly what they needed tonight.
Boston’s defense was struggling mightily and Rivers knew that his C’s would need to shoot the Heat out of the gym in order to have an opportunity to win. Barbosa, who has played the majority of his career in run-and-gun systems like Phoenix’s, is always ready to join in on a track meet.
“If you get in a scoring contest and Barbosa’s on the floor, you’re going to feel pretty good about it,” said Rivers. “Because that’s how he’s played. That’s how he’s used to playing.”
We saw substantial evidence of that Tuesday night. Barbosa was a scoring machine and wound up being the only Boston player to finish with a positive plus/minus rating on the night. The Celtics outscored the Heat by four points while he was on the floor.
Rivers mentioned after the contest that Barbosa is “clearly not scared of the moment.” If the coach was taking any notes Tuesday night, he shouldn’t be scared to call Barbosa’s name in the future if he ever needs to win in a shootout.