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Dan Shaughnessy

Bench gives Boston plenty to shout about

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By Dan Shaughnessy
Globe Columnist / June 11, 2010

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Nobody puts Baby in a corner.

On the night Glen Davis was drafted three years ago, Danny Ainge spoke of Big Baby having “big upside,’’ and we chortled and said, “Yeah, sure. Big backside, too.’’

Last night, Baby and his fellow subs ran the Celtics to a 96-89 victory over the Lakers in Game 4 of the NBA Finals, squaring the series at 2-2.

“I just felt like a beast,’’ said Davis. “There’s not too many times you get to be part of something so great. I just couldn’t be denied.’’

Baby was good for 18 points and four offensive rebounds (five total) in 22 minutes. There were moments when it looked as if he had consumed every can of Red Bull in New England. He even drooled after one play.

Is that cool or gross . . . Big Baby drooling?

“When you’re in the moment, you’re in the moment,’’ said Davis.

Red Auerbach basically invented the concept of keeping good players (Frank Ramsey, John Havlicek, Kevin McHale) on the bench at the start of a game. Baby and Friends — Nate Robinson, Rasheed Wallace, and Tony Allen — paid homage to the Pine Brothers of parquet past, building an 11-point fourth-quarter lead after the Celtics trailed (by as many as 8) for most of the first three quarters.

The burst from the bench saved the Celtics’ season: No NBA team has recovered from a 3-1 deficit in the Finals.

So now it comes down to a best-of-three. The Celtics will close down the Garden Sunday night, and the NBA championship will be won in Los Angeles Tuesday or Thursday. I don’t know about you, but I could watch these two teams play from now until August. The 2010 Finals are worthy of the 11 previous matchups between these rivals since 1959.

Here in the Hardwood Hub, the theme going into Game 4 was the notion that the Celtics had yet to enjoy a game in which each member of the Big Three played well. We’re still waiting. This game was won by the Boston bench (36 points). Davis, Robinson, Wallace, and Tony Allen played the first nine minutes of the final quarter, when the game was won.

“The starters were begging me to keep guys in, saying, ‘Don’t take ’em out!’ ’’ said Celtics coach Doc Rivers. “They were playing with great emotion.’’

“They really stepped on it in the fourth quarter,’’ said Lakers coach Phil Jackson. “You could tell that we got a little bit desperate there.

“They [the Celtics] were pretty emotional. They had their backs against the wall tonight. They played desperate and got away with it. Their animation and their activity level affected us.’’

Kobe Bryant, naturally, led the Lakers with 33 points, but LA no doubt is concerned about young center Andrew Bynum, who was limited to 12 minutes because of knee trouble.

“It bothered us in the second half, not having Andrew come out,’’ said Jackson. “He tried for a couple of minutes, but it just wasn’t there for him.’’

Ray Allen (4 for 11, 12 points) converted a layup off the break in the first minute of play, but did not make another shot until the seventh minute of the second half (at that moment he was 1 for 22 over three games and the make was a layup). The Celtics managed to cling to a 19-16 lead after one despite shooting 36 percent.

Kobe drained three missiles (two treys) in 63 seconds of the second quarter and the Lakers burst to an 8-point lead before halftime. LA led, 45-42, at intermission.

The Celtics trailed, 62-60, after three, then watched Messrs. Davis, Robinson, Tony Allen, and Wallace take over the game in the fourth. It was shocking. With Kevin Garnett and Paul Pierce on the bench, the subs took the game away from the Lakers.

“I don’t think what we did tonight was in the scouting report,’’ said Davis.

The team that won the rebounding battle (Boston, 41-34) won the game for the fourth straight time.

Officiating has been too large a topic in these Finals, and the NBA assured additional controversy by assigning Eddie F. Rush and Scott Foster to work Game 4 along with Greg Willard. Rush is the guy who called the two terrible technicals on Kendrick Perkins in Game 5 of the Orlando series (one was rescinded, both should have been rescinded). The selection of Foster can only be interpreted as pure arrogance on the part of commissioner David Stern (a.k.a. “Donald Sterns,’’ thank you Mr. Mayor). Foster’s close relationship with convicted felon (and ex-ref) Tim Donaghy paints him as suspicious at best. That made him a bad pick to officiate Game 4.

Neither coach complained about officials after the game. Most of the talk was about Big Baby and the Boston bench.

Dan Shaughnessy is a Globe columnist. He can be reached at dshaughnessy@globe.com.

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