Barbosa providing a boost for Celtics
It doesn't always work out this well, but when Leandro Barbosa finds a groove, the points flow like water from a turned-up spigot.
Consider the Celtics guard's entry into Sunday's overtime win in Orlando. On successive possessions he nailed a 3-pointer and then, off the break, a running banker that extended into a three-point play.
The elapsed time from 3-pointer to free throw was 21 seconds.
The burst was a repeat of his first-quarter attack after replacing a temporarily foul-dinged Rajon Rondo. He buried a 3-pointer with 56 seconds left, and 29 seconds later split the lane with a left-handed drive.
Overall, first- and second-quarter bursts combined, Barbosa scored 11 points in roughly three minutes. Of course, this dynamic can swing the other way as well. Barbosa's next time down the floor following his three-point play, he was whistled for a charging foul.
Still, Barbosa's scoring can be like a shot of adrenaline, and the perfect boost for a sagging offense.
"We thought he was going to go for a record in the first half. He's a scorer," said Celtics coach Doc Rivers. "We don't have a backup point guard right now, so when we put him in we put him in as a scorer. I tell our team that when LB is in the game and Rondo is off the floor, we have two 2-guards in the game. And so everyone's a scorer. And when we run the pick-and-roll with him, he's running to score and not to be a passer. He understands that role."
Perhaps this is why Barbosa, unlike some other new Celtics, hasn't needed to explore quite so much to find his niche. The rim is his focus, though Barbosa denies that he looks at himself strictly as a scorer.
"That's my game. I like to be aggressive every time I'm on the court," he said. "Coach has been giving me a lot of confidence, so every time I'm there, of course, I try to set up plays for my teammates, but if I see an opportunity to score, I will score. Tonight was one of those nights. We have a lot of weapons on this team. Some nights it's going to be other guys scoring, some days me, but as long as everyone contributes, that's the main thing.
"I am (comfortable), but the reason is because of my coaches and teammates. They give me a lot of confidence out on the court. They help me a lot. I'm very happy about that."
That feeling has been reciprocated.
"That's why we brought him in," said Rondo. "We know he can score the ball, and (Sunday night) he scored in four or five minutes. He picked up some fouls, but he still dominated the game. To have a backup point guard come in and have that kind of effect is big for me and our team."
But Barbosa doesn't like to view himself as a spurt scorer. Nor do teammates want to compare him to Eddie House, whose instant offense helped bolster the Celts' 2008 championship team's bench.
"Two different styles. (Barbosa is) more of a pick-and-roll guy who can create his own shot," said Rondo. "Eddie could just flat out shoot it, fill it from anywhere. But Barbosa came in, hit the 3, and then turned the corner on a couple of pick-and-rolls. We try to play to his strengths."
That hasn't been difficult, according to Barbosa.
"Doc talked with us, and he gave me my role," he said. "When I have the opportunity to score and be aggressive, he wants me to be that guy. But basketball is not all about scoring. If it's one of those nights when I'm not doing well on the offense, I'm going to try and do it on the defense. Tonight was my offense.
"But this is my first time playing those minutes, and I'm happy about it. I just want to help the team."