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Wilcox contributes energy, points

Frontcourt player is clicking with Rondo

By Diana C. Nearhos
Globe Correspondent / February 16, 2012
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With Kevin Garnett a late scratch last night, the Celtics needed their big men to step up, and Chris Wilcox was ready to answer the call. The forward had his best game of the season with 32 minutes and 17 points, both season highs, in the Pistons’ 98-88 win over the Celtics at TD Garden.

“He’s giving us exactly what we hoped for when we signed him: energy, athleticism, running the floor, finishing at the basket,’’ said coach Doc Rivers. “If he can stay where he’s at right now, I’m very happy with that.’’

Wilcox scored the Celtics’ first points on a reverse dunk, set up by Rajon Rondo, two minutes into the game. He hit a driving layup a couple of minutes later and then Rondo hit him for an alley-oop, as Wilcox connected on Boston’s only field goals in the first five minutes of the game.

“He runs the floor and he’s ahead of everybody and Rondo has trust that he can throw the ball up and he’ll go get it,’’ Rivers said. “[Rondo] made some tough passes tonight and Chris caught them and finished.

“It’s no different, I guess, than [Tom Brady] and Gronk [Rob Gronkowski] - you get confidence in certain guys running and there are certain guys that probably can run and Rondo would not throw it.’’

Wilcox has scored in double figures just four times this season; last night he was one rebound away from a double-double.

At the beginning of the season, Wilcox and Rondo had trouble connecting. The improvement has been particularly obvious in the past two games, particularly on transition.

“At the beginning of the year, I was dropping a lot of his passes. Practicing helped me be in the right situation at the right time and the passes he’s throwing right now are nothing surprising,’’ Wilcox said.

Now that Wilcox knows what to expect from Rondo, the two have a good thing going. The point guard has set his forward up for five dunks in the past two games.

“I love playing with Chris. He’s probably one of the fastest bigs in the league. I tell him to get out there and run with me and he does a great job every night,’’ Rondo said. “We’re starting to make easy baskets in transition and that’s what we need, I think, offensively.’’

Wilcox reached season highs in minutes in each of the past two games, his first starts of the season. On Sunday, he pulled down nine rebounds, a season high that he matched last night.

“For me to get minutes like that, I appreciate it and I’ve got to take advantage of the situation,’’ Wilcox said. “It’s an opportunity to go out there and compete.’’

The 6-foot-10-inch, 235-pound forward/center has energy not usually seen in a player of his size.

“This is who he is; it’s a talent he has. Energy for a big is a talent,’’ Rivers said.

Wilcox, however, doesn’t think his energy should be that big of a deal.

“It’s nothing to go out there and play with energy; that’s a given,’’ he said. “Just going out there and playing hard, that’s the least they can ask of you.’’

The Celtics take on the Bulls again tonight and will look to Wilcox for more of that energy and minutes. Wilcox is looking to repeat the same type of performance, but this time he wants a win as well.

“It’s all right,’’ he said of last night’s numbers. “It would mean more if we had got a win.’’

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