So he wasn’t completely unprepared Friday when coach Brad Stevens came to him with some surprise news. The timing just took some adjusting to.
“I was getting taped, and Coach walked in and was like, ‘You’re starting,’ ” Pressey said. “From there on, I had to get my mind ready. I mean, I’ve started before, so it wasn’t that big a deal, it was just so soon, 40 minutes before game time. I felt like my teammates all embraced me, like I was coming off the bench. It was the same mindset.”
Pressey’s playing time has been up and down depending on the health of Rajon Rondo and Avery Bradley. With Rondo a late scratch because of a bruised left shin, Pressey moved into the starting lineup for the ninth time this season. Two days removed from playing less than four minutes in a loss to the Atlanta Hawks, Pressey logged more than 39 minutes in the Celtics’ 106-103 win over the Charlotte Bobcats, scoring 10 points and distributing a career-high 13 assists.
Pressey’s performance was much more about the plays that didn’t make it into the box score, however. The TD Garden crowd cheered when he dove to the parquet in an effort to swipe the ball from Bobcats guard Jannero Pargo in the third quarter, then exploded when he outjumped two taller Charlotte players to tip Jared Sullinger’s miss to Brandon Bass for the game-winning offensive rebound with three seconds left.
“He never quits,” Celtics teammate Jared Sullinger said. “You’ve also got to understand, there’s a lot of built-up energy when you play six minutes here, 15 minutes here, ‘Oh, I’m starting tonight?’ getting 30 minutes here. It’s a lot of built-up energy. He had a lot of it and he played great.”
Sullinger knows what it’s like to be given late notice. As he joked, “Doc (Rivers) did me so dirty last year” in telling the then-rookie 35 minutes before gametime that he was starting a game against the Washington Wizards. But Sullinger also knows what it’s like to play through pain.
In the third quarter Friday, Sullinger slipped on a wet spot and hobbled off with a sprained ankle. After having his left ankle taped, Sullinger returned with eight minutes remaining in the game and scored nine huge points down the stretch, outdueling Bobcats star Al Jefferson in the process.
“You’ve just got to play through it,” Sullinger said. “That’s it. You’ve just got to play through it and fight it out. My mom and dad didn’t raise no quitter. For damn sure my brothers know I’m not a quitter. Just got to do what you’ve got to do.”
Dr. Brian McKeon, the Celtics’ team physician, advised Sullinger to “call it a night.” But after nine consecutive losses, Sullinger said he wasn’t about to leave a close game against a playoff team. Looking at his cantaloupe-sized ankle in the locker room, Sullinger cracked: “I think I was OK. I wasn’t really mobile. I’m not really mobile as it is, anyway.”