Six weeks ago, the Celtics took the floor for Game 2 of their first-round series with the Miami Heat at the TD Garden. The C's postseason run was still young, and there was hardly an inkling yet of the great things this team was capable of.
The Celtics led the Heat 1-0 in the series, but they were without the suspended Kevin Garnett for Game 2. Their hopes of holding off the Heat rested on the thick, muscular shoulders of Glen "Big Baby" Davis.
Davis came through to the tune of 23 points, eight rebounds and a stellar defensive performance against Jermaine O'Neal and Michael Beasley.
For Big Baby, having a big game here or there was nothing new. But following it up was the real challenge.
"I asked Baby this morning, did he know who Milli Vanilli was," coach Doc Rivers said a week later, after the Celtics closed out the Heat. "He said no. I said exactly."
Milli Vanilli, the coach explained, was a one-hit wonder. The one hit was the forgettable 1989 track "Girl You Know It's True" — and for Doc, the challenge was making sure that Game 2 wasn't Big Baby's "Girl You Know It's True," so to speak.
By now, we can conclude that both Baby and his coach deserve a pat on the back.
Fast forward to today, and we're 17 games into the playoffs. Davis has consistently been the first guy off of Doc's bench every night, and he's leading the second unit in minutes, points and rebounds. He's been a relentless energy guy for the Celtics in this postseason, making up for every inch of height he lacks with pure heart.
"The big test for him in my opinion was the game that Kevin was suspended," Rivers said, looking back. "He had the big game, and then he kept playing after that. In the past, Baby would have one good game, and then we would joke with him that he wanted a parade. That would be for a week or two, and then he'd come back to us. Now he's following it up the next night. That's huge for us.
"I just think he's grown up, honestly. I just think his focus is better, and he's been able to maintain his focus. That's been more of it than anything. I think he's just maturing, and he's understanding the urgency every night."
Two years ago, there was little need for urgency with Davis. He was an afterthought — as a rookie, he sat on the end of the bench next to fellow youngster Tony Allen. Neither of them had a chance to make a real impact.
Now, he's become a leader. Davis, Allen and Rasheed Wallace have come together to solidify the Celtics' bench. And for Davis, with maturity comes a heightened appreciation for teamwork.
"We call ourselves the ‘clenched fist,’" Davis said. "That’s what we do. Because when you clench your fist, you become strong. Together as one, you become strong. One finger can’t just do the job. Unless you’re Steven Seagal or somebody."
Davis is still only 23, but he's about to take the court for his second NBA Finals. And now, being an integral part of the Celtics' success, he values the experience more. To him, the 2010 Finals are the pinnacle of his career.
"This is what you live for," he said. "You know, [in 2008], I was like the 10th man coming off the bench. I was still a part of that team, but now you know, coming off the bench, being a factor, this is important. Not only to me, but to the organization, to the team, to the fans. To go and to do what we did this year, as far as not playing to where we should’ve played, and to be here at this moment feels so good. To go through all those ups and downs, and no matter what, persevere."
That's the key word: persevere.
When Davis injured his thumb back in October in an altercation with an old college friend … he persevered.
When he found himself in a rut in midseason, going through nights where he'd log eight, 10, 12 minutes instead of the 20 he was capable of … he persevered.
And when, last Wednesday night, he tumbled to the floor after taking a Dwight Howard elbow to the head and suffering a concussion, you know what he did?
And that's why he's where he is today, thriving as the sixth man on a Cinderella Celtics team that's four wins away from an NBA championship.
As Milli Vanilli would say, you know it's true.
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