Big Game Players Play Big in Big Games
AUBURN HILLS, Mich. - How fitting it was that a rookie, a second-round draft pick, no less, was the difference-maker down the stretch last night in a game between teams stocked with veterans, and one of them oozing in playoff experience.
Glen Davis may never have another impact game like this one for the rest of the season, but he'll always have Auburn Hills.
The rook from LSU played in the fourth quarter like he was going up against Vanderbilt at the Pete Maravich Assembly Center. To wit: 16 points (on 6-of-6 shooting, all layups) and one gargantuan rebound in the Celtics' nerve-racking 92-85 conquest of the Pistons last night at The Palace.
The total numbers: a career-best 20 points (high for either team) and four rebounds (three offensive). He and Paul Pierce were the only Celtics to play the entire fourth quarter and, when the game ended, Davis turned for what he thought would be a rewarding walk to the locker room. He was delayed.
Kevin Garnett stopped him, patted him on the head, and told him, "You came to play." Then it was over for to broadcast row for an interview.
"It feels good, real good, to go out there and make a contribution," Davis said. "But this won't be the last time we see these guys."
No, it won't, and, for now, it's been point-counterpoint. Detroit won in Boston. Boston won here. Three wins and five losses separate the behemoths.
That may change soon, for in a cruel twist of NBA scheduling, the Pistons start a stretch of four road games in five days Wednesday in Dallas, followed the next night at San Antonio.
The Celtics don't play until Wednesday when they host the, ahem, Bobcats.
But getting back to Big Baby, he was, well, big. He defended Rasheed Wallace as well as anyone can, forcing the motormouth Piston to take jumpers. Earlier in the evening, Wallace muscled his way in for layups when he wasn't hoisting threes. But the Pistons stopped going to the hoop in the second half. And Davis found a way to be, as they say, available, when the Celtics ran their high pick-and-roll offense and the Pistons collapsed on the usual suspects. Davis isn't one of them.
"We didn't handle that extremely well," understated Detroit coach Flip Saunders.
Pierce, who assisted on four of Davis's six hoops in the fourth, said, "He got to the right spots and he was open every time and he did a great job of finishing."
Four of Davis's baskets in the fourth resulted in 3-point-play opportunities. He converted three of them. (He was 4 of 5 from the line.) He basically was the Celtics' offense in the fourth; he nearly outscored the Pistons all by himself as Detroit had 19 points.
In a seven-minute stretch in the fourth quarter, the Celtics' offense was either Big Baby or nothing.
But as big as his point production was, it was his sole rebound of the fourth that may have been the game's biggest play. Detroit had reduced an 86-80 lead to 86-84 with 1:25 left and Pierce missed a pull-up jumper. Davis positioned himself well, outmaneuvered three Pistons, and got the rebound. He sent it back out to Pierce and it led to a Davis basket (from Pierce) with 56.9 seconds left. That was the real backbreaker of the night. The Celtics had 27 second-chance points and an overall 50-36 rebounding advantage.
"He is growing and tonight his energy was tremendous, and even infectious in some ways," said coach Doc Rivers, who is slow to slobber over rookies. "You can expect him to make layups when we move the ball.
"I expect all of my players to make layups when we move the ball. It was because of ball movement."
The 23 minutes Davis logged almost doubled his season average of 11.9 a game. His minutes chart looks something like the stock market: He had played only 28 minutes in the previous seven games, two of which (Sacramento, Seattle) he never bothered to take off the warm-ups.
"He's up and down. He's a rookie," Rivers said. "But we understand that and are patient with that."
Davis said he had no inkling he would even play last night, let alone play as much as he did. He said he never knows from game to game, which is part of the rookie life.
Another part is being mature enough to accept that and be ready to play when your number is called.
Glen Davis did that last night.