Glen Davis had two options. He was either going to be the player with five missed free throws, a late turnover and the foul that gave the Orlando Magic the lead with 11.3 to play, or he was going to be the man who saved the Boston Celtics' 2009 season.
The decision was in a flick of his wrist. Nothing flashy, just a simple line-drive jumper that went up with the Celtics trailing 2-1 in the series and by one in Game 4, stayed up as the buzzer sounded and dropped in to give Boston the 95-94 victory.
That flick of the wrist transformed what was soon to be a grave-deep hole in the Eastern Conference Semifinals into a best-of-three series, bookended with two games at TD Banknorth Garden. One play summed up with four words from Dwight Howard, trying to describe what happened: "...Big Shot Baby Davis."
Glen Davis' back-to-back jumpers in the final minute of Game 4 spurred the Celtics to victory and has given them new life in the series.Fernando Medina/NBAE/Getty
"It might be end up being the biggest shot of his career," Rajon Rondo said.
The final play occurred after Doc Rivers called a timeout following two go-ahead free throws by Rashard Lewis -- free throws afforded by Davis' foul at the basket. The smart money was on Rivers drawing up a play for Ray Allen or Paul Pierce, and indeed he did.
Pierce inbounded the ball to Rajon Rondo, and there went option No. 1, Ray Allen, blanketed on the flare screen. Then option No. 2, Pierce, got open. Business as usual. The kink came when Dwight Howard came to trap Pierce, but there was Davis, in a shooter's stance, hands ready to catch-shoot-swish. Pierce made the pass and seconds later Davis was tearing down the court like a bowling ball of scowling glee.
"We have a saying, 'Trust the pass, trust the pass,'" Rivers said. "Our best player trusted the pass. He may have made a shot but Dwight Howard was in his face. Baby was open, [Pierce] trusted the offense, he trusted to pass and Baby knocked down the shot."
The shot capped off Davis' 21-point, six-rebound night in which he scored five of Boston's final six points. But the night did not begin with high fives and chest bumps. Davis picked up his first foul less than a minute into the game. And with Boston's big-man corps depleted, that meant a trip to the bench.
"I know he got down on himself because he came out of the game thirty seconds into the game, but he stuck with it," Pierce said. "He did not let that frustrate him."
And why should it? One foul was not going to derail an entire offseason of work for the second-year, and admittedly emotional, player.
"Since I have been with the Celtics, I have been trying to find my niche in our system," Davis said. "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. 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."
That confidence, that lack of hesitation, might be the story of Davis' season, because at one point the shot was a work-in-progress, and there were doubters. People who said he shouldn't be taking those shots at the end of games, people who didn't see the player improving, just saw the shot missing.
But the most important shot for any shooter is not the one that misses, but the next one he takes. First Davis had his failures, and he shot again. Then he had to replace Kevin Garnett in the starting lineup, and he shot again. Then he suffered 10 stitches to the head and a sprained ankle, and he kept shooting. And now he's hit the shot that saved a season.
"Every time I shoot I kind of feel myself making game-winning shots all the time," Davis said. "You always have to see it. If you see it, you will believe it."