BOSTON — Courtney Lee, limited to six minutes of playing time in his first game back from a sprained ankle, hopped up exuberantly. Chris Wilcox, mostly confined to the bench after starting the game at center, waved his towel enthusiastically. Rajon Rondo, back on the bench for the first time in two months, clapped in his sportcoat.
All along the bench, the Celtics were having a ball. Shavlik Randolph, who less than a month ago was playing professionally in China, was hauling in rebounds and making his counterparts on the Hawks look flat-footed, and his relatively new teammates were loving it.
“He gave us so much energy,” Celtics coach Doc Rivers said. “Any time you see the bench jumping around for rebounding, that’s really impressive.”
Randolph came within one point of his first career double-double with nine points and 13 rebounds in 22 quality minutes off the bench, contributing one of the many standout performances in Boston’s 118-107 win. It is not often that a triple-double is overshadowed, but in this case it was.
“He did a lot of the dirty work,” said Paul Pierce, who notched his third triple-double of the season with 20 points, 10 rebounds and 10 assists. “He went in there and stuck his nose in there in the middle. He got some offensive rebounds, some put-back layups. He was in the right position pretty much all night. It was fun to watch him do that out of nowhere. He was in China about a month ago, then he comes here. You feel good for a guy like that.”
Chinese league imports were not the only players who broke out against the Hawks. Jason Terry has spent much of the season in Celtics fans’ doghouse, as the sharpshooter and standout sixth man has failed to live up to his rep for most of the season. Yet after helping Jeff Green get free for the game-winner with a key screen on the final possession in Cleveland on Wednesday, Terry stepped up in a more direct way. His 24 points constituted his highest point total since Feb. 10 and his second-highest scoring output of the season.
Terry’s value has never been measured in sheer volume, though. His timing is what has set him apart from other free-shooting off-guards, and on Friday he showed the crowd at TD Garden what it had been missing. He hit a pull-up jumper in the middle of the fourth quarter to give the Celtics some breathing room after the Hawks had cut their deficit to six points, then drained a long 3-pointer from the left wing to stretch Boston’s lead to 11 points.
Although Lee was back in uniform after missing three games with a sprained ankle, Terry’s play allowed Rivers to keep his usual starting two-guard on the bench for all but six minutes. Terrence Williams, who delivered two rim-rattling dunks, and Jordan Crawford, who continued to frighten Rivers as much as he does his opponents, also gave the Celtics solid guard play off the bench.
“As long as we execute, someone’s going to get an open shot,” Terry said. “We’re not looking to just get one guy going. If we move the ball the way we’re capable of, somebody’s going to reap the benefits. [Friday] it just happened to be me.”
For Terry, the game was about delivering on expectations. For Randolph, it was about exceeding them. For the Celtics, it was just a matter of getting what they could from the staff at hand, and figuring out a way to make it work.
And they seemed to have a lot of fun doing it.