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Notebook: Getting off the bench

4/25/2011

NEW YORK -- A collection of news and notes after the Boston Celtics defeated the New York Knicks 101-89 in Game 4 of their Eastern Conference quarterfinals series Sunday at Madison Square Garden to complete a 4-0 series sweep:

The rundown: Bench Gets Warmer | Still Cleaning the Glass | Layup Line

It was an 11-foot baseline jumper, like maybe 100 others he's made this season (and countless more in practice). But as Glen Davis splashed a wide-open look less than seven minutes into the first quarter Sunday, he smiled as he glanced briefly at the Boston bench, where coach Doc Rivers was emphatically cheering the play.

Davis and his Boston bench brethren have been mired in a postseason slump that has forced the Celtics to lean heavily on their starters. Under the microscope, every open look is magnified when it clangs off the rim, but you could almost feel the collective sigh of relief as Davis' jumper ripped through the twine.

Soon after, fellow reserve big man Nenad Krstic checked into the game. Despite his own struggles in limited time, Krstic grabbed a rebound, blocked a shot, produced his first bucket of the postseason (an emphatic two-handed baseline jam) and poked the ball loose, leading to a Paul Pierce steal -- all within his first 75 seconds on the floor -- as confidence became contagious with the reserves.

After combining for a mere 33 points on 14-of-47 shooting (29.8 percent) over the first three games of the postseason, Boston's bench combined for 23 points on 10-of-18 shooting (55.5 percent) on Sunday. Davis highlighted the effort with 14 points on 6-of-8 shooting, giving the reserves something to build off.

"I don't think I had even made a jump shot this series yet," Davis joked. "To get it going in the closing game, it's a big game.

"We were due for a game to help our team win. [The starters], just doing what they do, they can't carry us all the time. Sometimes they might miss shots, sometimes things might not flow the way they want them to flow, and we've got to be the guys to use their energy and make sure we get up there."

Maybe most encouraging was the way the bench maintained an early lead for Boston, something it failed to do in the first three games against the Knicks. The Celtics kept at least three bench players on the court during a near nine-minute stint spanning into the second quarter in which a five-point lead built by the starters grew to nine before the first unit returned to the floor.

The secret?

"Just played a little bit harder," said Jeff Green, who missed five of the seven shots he put up but chipped in five points and seven rebounds over 16:45 in a solid effort. "That's about it. I think that's what we needed to do. [Delonte] West came in and gave us some big minutes, myself, [Glen Davis] played tremendous today. It was just the effort that we needed to put forth today. It had to be another notch up."

When Boston's bench plays like it did Sunday, allowing the starters even the tiniest of breaks, Boston's entire play goes up a notch.

--STILL CLEANING THE GLASS--

Inside the Celtics' locker room, the whiteboard displayed a pregame message about Boston's need to win the battle on the glass again. It's unclear if the +10 scrawled in red was for the effort in Game 3 (Boston outrebounded New York 43-33) or a target for Sunday's game.

Either way, Celtics coaches had to be happy. Boston finished +11, outrebounding the Knicks 53-42 (which included a whopping 44-29 edge in defensive rebounds).

"We haven't been rebounding the ball well all year long," said captain Paul Pierce. "But when we do rebound and play defense, we are a great team."

--LAYUP LINE: CHARGEWATCH, MELO'S FLAGRANT, DOUBLE TECHNICAL--

* The Celtics absorbed three charges Sunday with Jermaine O'Neal setting the tone by taking a bump from Amare Stoudemire after just 12 seconds on the game's first possession. Davis took a charge from Stoudemire later in the game, while Paul Pierce drew a huge call on Shawne Williams in the fourth quarter as the Knicks tried to rally.

* Carmelo Anthony got tagged with a flagrant-1 for a little shoulder block to driving Rajon Rondo early in the first quarter. Rondo hit the floor hard, but that didn't detour him from converting 4-of-5 layups Sunday.

* Tempers flared briefly when West got whistled for a foul, but blocked the shot attempt of Landry Fields from behind. Fields spilled to the floor and West stared down at him before Stoudemire came in and bumped West. Green raced over to separate, but Stoudemire and West both got tagged with technicals (though the situation was only mildly contentious).

* Kevin Garnett endured early foul trouble, sitting out an extended stretch in the first half, but returned to score 20 of his team-high 26 points in the second half. The Celtics leaned hard on the typically unselfish Garnett after the intermission, and he responded by connecting on 7-of-12 shots (and got the charity stripe for six freebies).