Commentary

Outmanned Celtics dig deep

Role players find fortitude to turn back Raptors

Updated: January 3, 2010, 12:46 AM ET
By Chris Forsberg | ESPNBoston.com

BOSTON -- J.R. Giddens didn't know whether to sit or stand.

Set to make the first start of his NBA career, Giddens double-clutched when the lights dimmed for the Boston Celtics' pregame introductions Saturday night at TD Garden. For the past season-plus, Giddens has taken a spot standing in one of the two lines formed in front of the Boston bench to support the veteran starting five as it's introduced.

But playing without Kevin Garnett, Rajon Rondo and Paul Pierce, the Celtics used as radical a starting lineup as they have since Giddens arrived. It was only the second time this year Boston didn't have its typical starting five in place at the Garden (Garnett also sat out against Indiana on Dec. 22).

Giddens eventually settled down in his chair and enjoyed the moment.

[+] EnlargeJR Giddens
Brian Babineau/NBAE/Getty Images J.R. Giddens, making his first NBA start, drew good reviews for his defense on Toronto's Hedo Turkoglu.

And while his hesitation was a microcosm of his night -- Giddens passed up numerous opportunities to shoot while registering two points over a career-high 20 minutes -- his contributions and those of others unaccustomed to playing large roles helped Boston emerge with a thoroughly satisfying 103-96 triumph over the Toronto Raptors that snapped a three-game losing streak.

Kendrick Perkins, one Boston starter who's manged to avoid the injury bug, might have summed it up best: "J.R. is 1-0 as a starter, Lester Hudson] is 1-0 as a seventh man. It's all good."

Giddens spent much of last season with the Utah Flash of the NBA Development League, and Hudson has already made two trips north this season to join the Celtics' new NBDL affiliate in Maine.

But, for at least one night, the Celtics leaned on their youngest players, and in what Perkins suggested might have been a must-win situation. Desperate to right their ship after a disastrous western trip, the injury-depleted Celtics had six players score in double figures.

Raptors guard DeMar DeRozan could only shake his head when asked about Boston finding a way to win despite its thin bench; the Celtics dressed just 11.

"Without their main players, [the Celtics] still go out there and play tough, play hard and play like they want to be a championship team," said DeRozan.

The Celtics didn't quite look like a championship team as they endured a licking at the hands of the Suns Wednesday night in Phoenix. Playing without Garnett and Pierce, Boston appeared woefully unsure of itself and out of sync at both ends of the court.

Coach Doc Rivers expressed dismay over his team's effort that night, saying his team didn't even compete. Boston spent two hours on the practice court Friday, meticulously going over offensive sets with varied personnel, and, more importantly, stressing that injuries were not an excuse for failure.

"We talked about that for all day yesterday, all day today," said Rivers. "We're at home, going out on a road trip, and we had to come into the game with the attitude that we expect to win. I didn't think we had that attitude in Phoenix. I thought we showed up and said, 'What's going to happen?' I thought tonight we showed up with an attitude that we're going to find a way to win. We didn't know how but we're going to find it."

Perkins said he could feel the change in attitude from the moment he walked into the locker room Saturday. It didn't hurt that the Raptors provided a little bulletin-board material with Jarrett Jack talking about Toronto's need to match the Celtics' physicality.

It never happened. Perkins and Rasheed Wallace set the tone for Boston and the young players followed their lead.

"I could just tell right before the game, everyone was focused," said Perkins. "We had a pretty good practice [Friday] and Doc said this was a must-win situation."

Every player chipped in a little something:

Tony Allen shifted to point guard and dished out a team-high seven assists to complement 14 points and five rebounds over 34 minutes.

• Giddens drew compliments from Wallace his defense against Hedo Turkoglu.

• Ageless Ray Allen connected on 8 of 13 shots for a team-high 23 points and added four assists while contributing to the ball-handling duties without Rondo.

• Wallace logged a game-best plus-19 in the plus/minus category, suggesting Boston thrived with him on the floor. Wallace did it all -- including picking up a second-quarter technical after getting tangled with Turkoglu -- and registered 16 points, 6 rebounds, 4 assists, 3 steals and a block over 32 minutes.

• Perkins logged another double-double (14 points, 10 rebounds) and showed leadership beyond his age in both cheerleading and dispensing advice from the bench after picking up two early fouls.

• Hudson logged a career high for minutes (12) and spent time as the backup point guard. He finished 2 of 3 from the floor for five points, hitting the only 3-pointer he attempted.

Glen Davis battled through ankle and thumb injuries to post 15 points, five rebounds and a steal over 16 minutes, keying a late second-quarter run that helped Boston build a double-digit cushion.

Eddie House contributed 12 points, 4 rebounds and 4 assists off the pine, while Brian Scalabrine logged 14 much-needed minutes for a depleted front court.

"That's just a good W for us, period," said Wallace. "The last three games, we didn't take our opponent seriously, and they showed us how this league is. Anyone can win on any given night. They kicked our butt the last three games and we have to return the favor every once in a while."

Chris Forsberg is a roving reporter for ESPNBoston.com. Follow him on Twitter.

Chris Forsberg

Celtics reporter, ESPNBoston.com

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