BOSTON - When Paul Pierce and Boston's other starters need a rest in the NBA Finals, they can watch their replacements with confidence.
Just as they did two years ago against the same opponent, when the Celtics won their 17th title by beating the Los Angeles Lakers.
Boston's key backups have changed since then. The importance of their contributions hasn't.
"Somewhere along the line these guys that are role players that people don't really talk about come along and help us win games," Pierce said. "They really get overlooked."
The Celtics, who return to practice Monday after a two-day break, have the same starting playoff five for Thursday night's opener at Los Angeles that they had the last two years, a source of comfort for coach Doc Rivers.
That group has led them to playoff victories in five games over Miami and six each over Cleveland and Orlando this year. But through that run, substitutes Rasheed Wallace, Glen "Big Baby" Davis, Tony Allen, and Nate Robinson have had their moments - and more.
The latest and most surprising? Robinson's 13 second-quarter points in Friday's 96-84 clinching win over the Magic in Game 6.
In Boston's other 16 playoff games, Rivers didn't use the 5-foot-9 leaper and long-range shooter in seven of them. In the 26 games Robinson played after being traded by New York on Feb. 18, he averaged only 14.7 minutes.
"I told him at some point it was going to happen for him and it was all up to him to stay engaged," Rivers said. "And he did. I get no credit out of this."
In 2008, it was James Posey, P.J. Brown, Leon Powe, Eddie House, and Sam Cassell coming off the bench.