In all my years watching the NBA, I've never seen this before.
Can you think of a playoff team, any team, ever, who has played AN ENTIRE QUINTET of bench players for major stretches of do-or-die playoff games and WON because of it?
Sure, coaches have benched a whole set of starters before, but that's only when they're getting blown out and the coach is sending a "message" to them.
Sure, coaches have had successful bench PLAYERS before, sprinkling them in with 2-3 starters to help them succeed (Terry, JR Smith, Ginobili, even Barbosa), help them win 6th man-of-the-year awards. But no one points out that 90% of those guys' minutes were in tandem with at least 2 starting-unit players. Success comes much easier when you have a star or two to lean on, when the pressure hits.
But NEVER before have I seen an entire second unit win a critical game.
*Late-season game (early April) against San Antonio* Two weeks before the playoffs, at home. Both teams really need the win. Suns start the 4th with a quintet of bench guys, while SA plays Duncan, Ginobili and Parker. SA cuts the lead to 5 within 2 minutes and Gentry calls TO. But does he put the starters back in? NO. Bench stays, and goes on a 19-7 run. Game over.
*Game 6 against Portland in round 1 On the road* Nash is having a horrible game (for him). Tons of turnovers. Who carries the Suns to win the CLOSE OUT game of the series? The bench, of course. Game over.
*Game 3 against San Antonio. On the road* Game tied early in the 4th quarter. The quintet of benchies steps in, against Duncan, Manu and Parkers. Spurs need this game BAAAADDDD. And then Goran happens. 26 points in the last 14 minutes of the game overall, 23 in the 4th alone. All while the second unit is on the floor with him. Game over.
*Game 4 against LA, Western Conference Finals* Check all the recaps, all the over the internets today. The benchies against mighty Kobe, Gasol, Artest, Fisher and Odom. Game over.
And a great deal of credit has to go to Gentry, the Bench Whisperer. Why? Because this has never happened before. What coach in history has trusted his second unit this much? What coach in history has sat all of his starters for 9 minutes of the 4th quarter of a crucial, crucial game of the Conference Finals against the reigning NBA champs!??!!
And it's not like these guys are all-stars. A second-year PG with no pedigree. A lifetime super-scorer who has rarely started a game. An end-of-bench 7-footer who can't rebound. A 6-9" hustler who couldn't get on the court of either prior team before coming here. A 6-7" small forward who can't jump over a UPS box.
THAT'S our bench unit. THAT'S the unit that took the vaunted Lakers' starting unit to the woodshed last night.
ENJOY THIS, FOLKS!