With Kevin Garnett suspended and Doc Rivers half-heartedly trying to misdirect the press about who would start in his place in Game 2, Glen Davis took the opportunity to dust off an old persona at Monday's practice.
Speaking (presumably) about himself, Davis told a cluster of reporters huddled around him in Waltham that the "Ticket Stub" had an early flight to Boston. Davis assured the group the Ticket Stub would be ready for the challenge of replacing Garnett in the lineup, even though he claimed wasn't sure if Rasheed Wallace or his alter ego would get the nod.
It's a safe bet he already knew he was going to start at power forward -- Rajon Rondo essentially spilled the beans after Monday's practice, undermining any efforts at subterfuge -- but either way, it's hard to believe that Davis had any idea he'd drop 23 points, grab eight rebounds and commit zero turnovers in 29 minutes en route to a 77-106 blowout win over the Miami Heat in Game 2 at the Garden.
"I just knew that the Big Ticket was out, and that the Ticket Stub had to fly in today. He flew in early this morning, got in and said he was ready to play," Davis said on the postgame podium Tuesday night. "I do what the coaches want me to do. Today they needed the Ticket Stub, and the Ticket Stub came. Whenever they need the Ticket Stub, he'll be there."
Davis was a bit shaky at the start, getting his shot blocked four straight times by Jermaine O'Neal in the opening minutes while the Celtics and Heat played each other even through the first quarter, 23-23. He played 10:16 of the opening stanza and had just six points to show for it on 1-for-5 shooting.
But Davis came alive over his next 17 minutes of action, converting six of his nine remaining field goal attempts and scoring 17 of his 23 points as the Celtics took control of the game and built a lead that swelled to as many as 33 points. Whether he was rolling to the hoop, drawing contact at the rim or knocking down the midrange jumper that he spent most of last summer working on, Davis was blindsiding the Heat with an attack unseen since last postseason, when he most recently made an impact pinch-hitting for an injured Garnett.
Glen Davis and Ray Allen share a fist bump to celebrate a job well done in Game 2's blowout win over Miami.
"Baby was great, but he was great because he was a by-product of the passing from our other bigs and he made layups," Celtics Coach Doc Rivers said. "Paul and Perk and Ray were so unselfish tonight it made everybody tough to guard."
While Davis' offensive numbers jumped off the box score Tuesday night, the number Rivers was worried about heading into the game was the 36 pick-and-rolls that the Heat ran for Dwyane Wade in Game 1. Without KG to clamp down on defense, Rivers felt he needed a faster big to fill the void, leading to his decision to give Davis the nod over Wallace.
Meanwhile, Paul Pierce took solace in the idea that starting Davis meant that the C's would have a playoff-proven lineup.
"When I stepped out there today, and when I saw our lineup, I was like this is the same lineup that we had going into the playoffs last year that pushed Orlando to seven games," said Pierce, who scored just 13 points but noted that he enjoyed watching Davis and Ray Allen (25 points and 7-for-9 on threes) take the game over as the Celtics blew the game open. "With Glen out there playing so well in a starting role, we all know what he is capable of when he is confident, he is playing a type of basketball we know that he can play."
The Heat apparently didn't get the memo, or just didn't watch the playoffs last year. After the game, a stunned Erik Spoelstra gave Davis his due despite a tone that suggested his team was caught off guard by the Celtics substitute. That's understandable, given that Davis' minutes fluctuated all year and he never posted more than 15 points in a game this season, not to mention the notorious thumb injury that cost him nearly the first two months of the season. So Spoelstra should be able to forgive his advance scouts if they didn't pick up on Davis as a possible threat in this series.
"We have respect for him, but that's a case where one man impacted the game simply with his effort. I don't think they ran one play for him; I would be shocked if they even have a play in their playbook for Glen Davis," Spoelstra said. "He does all of his work without the ball; he does it by running the floor, sprinting ahead of the crowd, ducking in on the weak side, crashing the offensive glass, putting himself in position for dishes inside the paint. He just continues to put heat on you in the paint."
What Spoelstra found unforgiveable, however, was his team's unwillingness to match Davis' effort.
"How do you deal with a player like that? You cannot let a man's effort exceed yours; it's as simple as that. From there it becomes a mano-a-mano battle that the best player wins at that point. But right now he has in two games really made an impact just with his energy and his effort."
Davis needed little inspiration, just an opportunity to show what he could do. That said, after imagining for the press how Garnett would have reacted while watching the game on TV, Davis did share that he'd had a brief conversation with the Big Ticket before the game and received marching orders.
"Well, I am the Ticket Stub, so I kind of know what he wanted to happen tonight. He was kind of frustrated with what happened," Davis said. "He told me before the game to make sure that I do what I got to do and be physical, be ferocious...and that anything is possible."
With Garnett returning to action for Game 3, it's unlikely Davis will get the same opportunity to contribute in big minutes. What's more likely is that Davis will be ready to make an impact with whatever chance he gets going forward.