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Bob Ryan

Oh Baby, did Davis ever come up big

By Bob Ryan
Globe Columnist / June 11, 2010

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Understand this about Glen Davis: He is a basketball player.

He may look like a football player and he may harbor a secret desire to be a movie star, talk-show host or a contestant on “Dancing With The Stars,’’ but he is a pure basketball player.

He is 6 feet 8 inches (maybe), and he often has a lot of trouble finishing underneath among the NBA redwoods, but he usually finds a way to make an impact on a basketball game, and last night he made one of his biggest. He was at his slashing, marauding, kamikaze best in the fourth quarter, leading the Celtics with his amazing range of skill and inspiring them with his emotion and desire, spearheading a bench brigade whose fourth-quarter effort gave the Celtics a 96-89 triumph that evened the NBA Finals at two games apiece.

When this man has it going, he just about takes your breath away. He has amazingly quick feet, and is a far better individual defender than you’d ever imagine. He is smart, and has never had any trouble figuring out the Tom Thibodeau defensive schemes.

He has truly great hands and is ambidextrous in close. He also has astonishing body control. He angles in up and through people. It kind of goes without saying he is strong.

Put the entire package together and what you have is a basketball player.

There is one other thing. He doesn’t like the spotlight. He doesn’t love the spotlight. He adores the spotlight. The bigger the stage, the more he wants to be a part of the action. It really shouldn’t surprise anyone to learn that the Finals can bring out the best in Davis.

It’s been a long, crazy road for the man known as Big Baby this season. It began, as we all know, with a foolish act. That ridiculous punch of a friend in the front seat of his car two days before the start of the regular season cost him the first 28 games, and he never really found his game in the ones he did play. It was, frankly, a lost season.

But this is the famed second season, and Glen Davis is back on his game, which means the Celtics can count on help from him at both ends of the floor and on the glass. Above all, he brings energy. He always competes. Always.

“I’m just making sure I give my team positive energy to finish off the game,’’ he said.

The energy led to 18 points on 7-for-10 shooting. Four of his five rebounds were on the offensive end, and the resultant second-chance points were huge on a night when the Celtics struggled to find any offensive flow for the first three quarters. After three, the Celtics were trailing, 62-60, and were shooting a dismal 39 percent from the floor.

Doc Rivers opened the fourth quarter with one starter, Ray Allen. He put him out there with Davis, Nate Robinson, Tony Allen, and Rasheed Wallace, asking them to do nothing more than hold the fort until he could get the rested regulars back in there.

But they opened the final period with a 14-4 run, taking the lead at 66-64 on a power layup from Davis off a Robinson feed and never giving it back. Four minutes went by and they were still in there. Five minutes. Still there. Six. Seven. Still there.

Eight!

By the time Rivers saw fit to make a substitution there was only 2:51 remaining and the lead was 85-79. It had been as many as 11 (85-74, at 3:57 on a pair of Davis free throws).

In the first five minutes or so of the fourth quarter, when the Celtics were getting some separation from the Lakers, it seemed as if the entire game was revolving around Big Baby.

“I just felt like a beast,’’ he said. “Really, I’m going to be honest with you. I just felt like I couldn’t be denied — rebound. If a rebound was in my vicinity, or like if the ball was going to be held up, you know, I just felt like I just couldn’t be denied.

“There’s not too many times you get a chance to be in the Finals and be a part of something so great that you can never really imagine yourself even being here. I just couldn’t be denied today.’’

He prepped for all this in last year’s playoffs when he replaced Kevin Garnett, who was injured, and averaged 15 points a game. He even had a game-winning jumper in the Orlando series. Then he had the wasted season.

This was hardly his first major contribution of the 2010 playoffs. He had 23 points and eight rebounds in Game 2 against Miami, 15 points against Cleveland in Game 5, and a team-high 17 points in that memorable 94-71 destruction of Orlando in the third game of that series.

But none of those performances meant as much as this one. This was an absolute must game for the Celtics, who could not afford to go down, 3-1, in the series.

The Celtics got off to a 23-5 start without him, but it’s rather obvious now that they are a far better team with Glen Davis’s game-changing capabilities. He’s an emotional player at any time, but put him in the Finals and you’re talking about an energy force very few teams can duplicate.

“You know,’’ he said, “this is new to me. You know, really, playing in the Finals and being a part of the team. My first year I was a part, but I really didn’t play a huge part in winning.’’

The best part of all this from a Celtics’ viewpoint is that you can’t game plan for Glen Davis. He’s not merely an X-factor. He’s a XXXXX-factor. Good luck trying to scheme for that.

Bob Ryan is a Globe columnist and host of Globe 10.0 on Boston.com. He can be reached at ryan@globe.com.

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