Davis provides high-energy effort

By Michael Whitmer
Globe Staff / May 23, 2010

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One bounce on the rim, then another, then through, bringing the Celtics bench to its feet and sending Glen Davis into a celebratory shimmy that would have made Antoine Walker smile. Lifting his knees and running toward his teammates in high-stepping fashion, Davis — surprisingly nimble despite carrying 289 pounds — seemed to be everywhere last night, diving onto the floor, into the stands, and giving a team already firing on all cylinders a double shot of energy.

There were lots of reasons the Celtics destroyed the Magic last night at TD Garden, 94-71, to take a 3-0 series lead, one win away from their second trip to the NBA Finals in three years. Perhaps none bigger than Davis, who scored 17 efficient points — more than his combined effort (14) in the first two games — and clamped down defensively on Orlando star Dwight Howard. One game after scoring 30, Howard was limited to 7 on 3-for-10 shooting, rendered a frustrating nonfactor by a Celtics team too quick, too strong, too savvy, too deep, simply too good through three games.

Davis was at the heart of that in Game 3, especially in the second quarter, when he spelled Kendrick Perkins (foul trouble) and outscored Howard, 10-4, including the 3-point play, part of 7 straight points that pushed the Celtics’ lead to 24. With three of the Celtics’ starters on the bench, Davis and the second unit extended a double-digit lead, offering the Magic little hope that their spotless road record in these playoffs would remain intact.

“Being on a team that’s so loaded, you’ve got to find your role and play your role to the max,’’ said Davis, who added six rebounds and even blocked a shot. “I just bought into it, bought into what [coach Doc Rivers] is saying, making sure I’m there for my teammates.

“My role is just being an energy guy: play defense, get rebounds. Just making sure that I’m doing what I have to do, realizing what I’m capable of doing. When I get my opportunity to play, I play.’’

It wasn’t even the stat sheet plays that showed the impact Davis made. In the final minute of the first half, Ray Allen missed a long 3-pointer in an attempt to beat the shot clock, with Rajon Rondo tipping the long rebound toward the sideline. But the third-year pro from LSU was also nearby, timed his jump just right, and flicked the ball back to Rondo before tumbling into the front row of spectators. Rondo was fouled by Howard, made one of his free throws, and gave the Celtics a 17-point halftime lead. Small play, but one that his teammates noticed.

“That’s my guy, and he was big tonight,’’ said fellow reserve Tony Allen (4 points). “He’s a grinder, he knows he’s a grinder. He’s the guy that comes in and gets things done, whether it’s diving for loose balls, taking charges. He’s willing to do it. But he was an offensive threat tonight.’’

Sent back in when Perkins picked up his fourth foul 55 seconds into the third quarter, Davis continued to dazzle: Five free throws, and a layup off a pass from Rondo that gave the Celtics a 66-43 lead. It didn’t match Davis’s playoff high this year (he scored 23 against Miami), but his 17 points were a team high, on a night when the Celtics took a dominant step toward another berth into the Finals.

“He’s comfortable in big games, for whatever reason. We know that, and we like it,’’ Rivers said. “He’s not in awe of the moment at all, and he’s been great off the bench for us.’’

Thirty minutes after the win, with most of the postgame visitors surrounding Paul Pierce (15 points), Davis sat alone at his locker, sipping a sports drink, sweat still pouring down his forehead. Celtics co-owner Steve Pagliuca came over and shook Davis’s hand, complimenting his backup forward on his hustle and defense.

“That jump shot was looking pretty sweet, too,’’ Pagliuca said.

Davis, a barrel of emotion, thanked his boss, then sat back down, ready for the crush of media and television cameras.

“Hey,’’ Davis said. “When the lights come on, it’s time to perform.’’

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