|Brian Scalabrine earned the crowd's raucous approval after he canned a crucial 3-pointer. (Jim Davis/Globe Staff)|
The fans have been calling out his name for three seasons, and Brian Scalabrine usually ignores them, or turns away, or buries his head in a towel. When the crowd chants, "Scal-a-bri-ne," it's because they want to see one of the last men on the Celtics bench get in the action; Scalabrine, though, doesn't want to be singled out.
But when coach Doc Rivers called his name yesterday, Scalabrine was thrilled.
"When Doc said, 'You're going to start,' I was excited," said Scalabrine, who took the place of the suspended Kevin Garnett against the Knicks. "It's been a while, and you don't always get those opportunities.
"On the other hand, with Kevin getting the suspension, that was going to be big shoes to fill. I didn't get a good nap today. I was anxious to get out there."
The 6-foot-9-inch redhead played 20 minutes 54 seconds and scored 8 points, including a pair of 3-pointers late in the game that brought some roars from the sellout crowd at TD Banknorth Garden.
But the only points Scalabrine counted were the 110 the Celtics put on the scoreboard in their 9-point victory.
"It's always about the Celtics," Scalabrine said. "If I play 30 minutes or if I don't play a minute, if we win the game, it's all good."
In his first start of the season, Scalabrine played the first 7:14, taking a defensive role against the Knicks' Wilson Chandler, before Leon Powe replaced him for the rest of the first half.
After intermission, Scalabrine was back on the floor and started to show his offensive skills. With the Celtics leading, 71-56, he got the ball about 20 feet out with what looked like a clear shot, but he hesitated, then passed to Rajon Rondo. The crowd groaned.
But he got another chance a few minutes later, with the Celtics up, 77-68. There was no hesitation this time, as he dropped in a 22-footer. Nate Robinson responded with a pull-up jumper at the other end, but Scalabrine was back in the same place, two steps farther from the basket. When Rondo sent him the ball, he nailed a 3-pointer, prompting the crowd to stand and cheer. No name-calling, just cheering.
"I felt good for Scal all night," said Eddie House. "You know, he played good defense and hit two big threes and I just feel good for him. He got his number called and he was ready. He was a true professional."
In the final minute, Scalabrine showed just how ready he is. He took a pass from Rondo deep in the left corner and sank a dead-on 3-pointer that made it 107-99.
"I've always liked those situations - two minutes to go, tight score," he said, "so I was very excited about being in that situation. It gets your blood flowing."
Scalabrine finished the game 3 for 5 from the field, 2 for 3 from behind the 3-point line.
"That was great for him," said Rivers. "And actually, the last two games, he's been terrific. Scal's going to help us this year."