ORLANDO - There are a million other places a professional basketball player could be in the middle of the summer than Waltham, Massachusetts. But Glen Davis spent countless hours in the gym working on his midrange jumper this offseason.
Little did he know he was preparing for a moment like the closing seconds of Game 4 against the Orlando Magic. Doc Rivers had made two requests of Big baby heading into last summer: one, stay away from the dinner table, and two, perfect his midrange jumper.
While he's still one of the bigger players in the league, circumference-wise, he has shed some weight since last season, but absolutely more apparent is the development, not to mention the arc, of his midrange jumper. It's a shot that a power forward must have in Rivers' offense, and with Kevin Garnett sidelined, Baby found himself taking the shot more and more over the last two months of the regular season.
Doc Rivers inspired Glen Davis to perfect his mid-range jumper, and it paid off in the waning moments of Game 4.Fernando Medina/NBAE/Getty
"Doc told me that if you work on that shot and show me you can make it, I am going to let you shoot it," Davis said after canning the game-winner in Game 4 of their Eastern Conference Semifinal matcchup with the Magic, a shot that gave the Celtics a 95-94 decision to tie the series at 2-2.
"This year has been proof of hard work. You just have to be focused. You have to make sure you understand the moment, the clock situation, and basically think without thinking. You just have to shoot it," Davis said.
Despite being the third option on the final play of the game that was designed for Ray Allen first and Paul Pierce second, Big Baby caught the ball on the left wing, wide open, and let an 18-footer rip as the clock was ready to expire with the game on the line.
His jumper, a shot that was flat and often fell short a year ago, hit twine as the clock expired and evened up a series that was all but over if he'd missed.
"It doesn't get any bigger than this. It might be end up being the biggest shot of his career especially with the momentum change," Celtics point guard Rajon Rondo said of Davis' game-winner. "We could have gone down 3-1, instead it is 2-2 and we go back home and get the home court advantage."
The weight of the moment was not lost on Davis, who's never been afraid to show his emotions on the court. After drilling the shot, Davis went trucking down the sideline for the Celtics' bench and spilled into his teammates to celebrate.
"Everyone knows I am an emotional guy. You have seen me cry one time," Davis said, recalling a candid admonishing from Garnett chronicled on national television. "I am an emotional guy and love the game of basketball. I was just enjoying the moment. You saw raw emotion right there."
Coaches around the NBA love to say, "It's a make or miss league", and when it comes to last second shots, well, there's really no other way to put it. You can draw up the best play in the world, but if guys miss shots, your chalkboarding all goes for naught. To that point, it shouldn't be forgotten that once again, the play Rivers constructed in the timeout worked, even if it took three options to accomplish the goal. Rivers has proven himself among the best at diagramming buckets during timeouts, and his team has a knack for delivering the goods in the clutch.
"We drew up that play; we worked on that play 20 times," Rivers said. "The first time option was Ray with a flare, the second option was Paul pick-and-roll, and if they trapped, the third option was Baby rolling to his spot."
As for the Magic, they sniffed out two-thirds of the play, locking up Allen and Pierce and forcing the Celtics to go off the reservation for the last-second shot. While Davis has become a dangerous midrange shooter, when the Celtics roll out a lineup of Rondo, Pierce, Allen, Eddie House and Davis, Big Baby's probably the last guy you're expecting to have the ball in his hands as the clock expires.
"I thought we did a great job on the play and they had to have the patience to go all the way to their last option and not force up a tough shot. They did that, Glen Davis is a heck of a shooter, he's worked very, very hard and he knocked the thing in," said Magic Coach Stan Van Gundy, who's among the most forthcoming coaches in the Association. "I always hesitate a little bit, when I'm saying something negative, whether it be about myself or the way we played, because I don't want to take anything from a great play made at the end of the game and a great shot made."
Cue the piano music. Amazing just happened again. But amazing doesn't happen without preparation.