BOSTON -- Jared Sullinger became only the sixth Boston Celtics player in the past 30 years to join the 20/20 club after putting up team highs with 25 points and 20 rebounds in an 88-83 triumph over the Toronto Raptors on Wednesday night at TD Garden.
Sullinger joins Celtics luminaries such as Kevin Garnett, Larry Bird and Robert Parish (as well as Ed Pinckney and, improbably, Mark Blount) in the recent 20/20 club. He's the first Boston player to reach those thresholds since Garnett (22 points, 20 rebounds) on Nov. 2, 2007. According to NBA.com/Stats, Sullinger is the first Celtic to go for 25-plus points, 20-plus rebounds, and 4-plus assists since Bird (42-20-5) on Nov. 11, 1987.
And, of course, it was rehabbing Rajon Rondo, back on the Boston bench in a dress rehearsal for Friday's potential return to game action, who noticed Sullinger at 19 boards during a timeout with under two minutes to play and encouraged him to seek No. 20.
It turned out to be a pretty important board, Sullinger muscling off Patrick Patterson in a three-point game with 30 seconds to go, then atoning for a couple previous misses with two clutch free throws to help end Boston's nine-game losing streak.
And more than a glitzy stat line, the win was what resonated most with Sullinger.
"After a while, when you lose so much when you’re not used to losing, the competitive nature takes over and that’s what happened with me," said Sullinger, who seemed so hellbent on getting Boston back in the win column that he tried to do it single-handedly at times.
Sullinger thought it was neat that Rondo sought him out to encourage the little milestone.
"I didn’t even think about it until Rondo told me, looked up at the scoreboard, get one more," Sullinger said. "I happened to look up and I saw 19 rebounds. I was like, 'I didn’t even know I had that many.' When you’ve got teammates like that that, celebrate big games like that or celebrate big wins, it’s huge for the personality in this locker room. I thought that was wonderful to see.
"I didn’t want to force it, but at the same time, it was a big accomplishment."
Sullinger, who had been shuffled to a reserve role during Boston's road trip, has found his shooting touch and worked his way back to the starting group. When the Celtics played their best ball earlier this season, it was Sullinger leading the way and he did it again on Wednesday.
The next time the Celtics hit the floor, Rondo could be out there chasing rebounds with Sullinger.
"I think [Wednesday's win was] big because (1) we broke the losing streak and (2) we get to focus on another game and how to get another win. I thought as a team, we played wonderful. If [Rondo] comes back [on Friday], he comes back. If he doesn’t, he doesn’t. We can’t just let him come back and then all of the sudden, we just say, all the weight’s on you. We’ve still got to play basketball, if he comes back or not."
A few more notes from Wednesday's game:
Bradley sprains right hand: Celtics guard Avery Bradley hurt his right hand early in Wednesday's win and briefly retreated to the locker room. He returned and finished with 20 points on 8-of-21 shooting with five rebounds, two steals and an assist over 35:33. After the game, he sported a wrap over his right hand, but downplayed the injury. "It was like the first play of the game and it just got hit, but I’ll be fine," Bradley said.
Not Pressey-ing the issue: In his first NBA start, undrafted rookie Phil Pressey handed out 10 assists and didn't turn the ball over during 26 minutes of floor time. Asked about the mistake-free play, Pressey noted, "I know if I take care of the ball, I’m giving my team an opportunity to get more shots up. And that’s what I pride myself on." Couple that with some tenacious defense and Pressey earned rave reviews from coach Brad Stevens. "I thought he was absolutely terrific," Stevens said. "I thought when things got tough, he got tough. I thought he tried to pull guys together. You know, sometimes when you go through some of these games that we’ve been through where we’ve lost leads, the tension seems greater than it probably should. And you just have to have guys that make toughness plays that break that tension. And to his credit, I thought he pulled guys in and together instead of when something doesn’t go our way we’re not together."
Crash gives C's some energy: Gerald Wallace had one of his better recent performances, giving the Celtics some energy and hustle in the first half. Wallace scored seven points on 3-of-4 shooting with six rebounds, two steals and an assist. He was minus-8 overall in plus/minus, but it wasn't reflective of his night. "He was great. And I think he wanted to play well," Stevens said. "I thought he was really good. He got into the ball. He dove on the one ball that he didn’t get, then he stole the next pass. He was just kind of flying around all over the place. That was nice to see."