BOSTON – On Saturday night, Brad Wanamaker became Brad Wanadunker. And boy, did the transformation catch his teammates off guard.
Over the course of his two-year NBA career, Boston’s backup point guard had not a single dunk to his name. However, while hosting his hometown Philadelphia 76ers on national television, Wanamaker threw down the hammer not once, but twice, fueling a season-high 15-point performance, which helped to boost his shorthanded Celtics to a 116-95 blowout win.
The inaugural jam came late in the first quarter and in memorable fashion, as Wanamaker posterized Philadelphia’s All-Defensive center, Joel Embiid. The play started on the defensive end, where Wanamaker poked the ball loose out of Embiid’s grasp and straight into the hands of Jaylen Brown. Brown, who is typically the team’s highlight-reel dunker, then dished the rock off to Wanamaker in the open court with Embiid giving chase. Embiid caught up to the play just as Wanamaker took off from the launchpad, but the 6-foot-3 guard managed to throw it down over the outstretched hand of his 7-foot opponent.
“That surprised all of us,” Jayson Tatum later admitted with a smile.
Added Marcus Smart, “I was happy for him, I think the whole team was. It was good to see, first of all, the bucket go down. Not only that, to put it on Joel, who is one of the premier shot blockers and defensive guys in this league, it was big for him.”
As it turned out, Wanamaker was just getting warmed up. Midway through the fourth quarter, he disrupted Philadelphia’s offense once again, this time jumping into the passing lane to intercept a pass from Ben Simmons before sprinting up-court for another transition jam.
The 30-year-old later said that the electric performance was his way of celebrating his daughter’s seventh birthday. Though, it also gave the Celtics reason to celebrate, as they avoided a season-sweep from Philadelphia in exciting fashion.
Boston especially needed Wanamaker to step up on this occasion, considering that it was without starting point guard Kemba Walker, who was sidelined with left knee soreness. Coach Brad Stevens wasn’t surprised at all to see that his veteran floor general was up to the task.
“Brad’s been very good all year,” Stevens stated. “Obviously 15 points off the bench is something that, with Kemba out at that position especially, we needed badly. He did a good job. When they went on their runs in the first, he hit some shots to keep us ahead, and then I thought he made some really aggressive plays tonight.”
Wanamaker also took some of the pressure off of Marcus Smart, who delivered 16 points from the starting point guard role.
“He was tremendous,” Smart said of his back-up. “He’s a boost every game. Guys like him, Semi Ojeleye, Grant Williams, (Daniel) Theis. When they get in there, they are definitely a big boost for us each and every game. They saved us a few games actually. That’s the thing about this team, our depth. We can pick anyone off that bench and throw them in, and they’re going compete and give us a chance to win.”
In this case, it was the energy of Wanamaker – or Wanadunker, for that matter – that helped fuel a convincing victory over one of Boston’s most formidable foes.
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