Brian Scalabrine

Brian Scalabrine pumps his fist after putting the nail in the coffin against the Knicks at the Garden Tuesday night.

Last week Doc Rivers called Brian Scalabrine an "irritant", referring to Scal's ability to frustrate opponents with his persistence on the defensive end.

Tuesday night, Rivers called Scalabrine a "starter", and the reserve forward also managed to prove his worth as a finisher in the Celtics' 110-101 victory over the New York Knicks.

With Kevin Garnett banned from the TD Banknorth Garden due to a one-game NBA suspension stemming from an altercation in Milwaukee Saturday night, Scalabrine made his first start of the season and filled in nicely, adding just eight points, but three big ones on a huge triple down the stretch that helped to quell any hopes of a Knicks rally.

While he's not going to be a stat-stuffer on most nights, Scalabrine continues to find ways to chip in to help his team win.

"I was excited, it's been a while and you don't always get these opportunities," Scalabrine said after playing 20 minutes in the contest. "On the other hand, missing Kevin, with his suspension, that was going to be big shoes to fill."

Before the game, Doc told the media he opted to start Scalabrine over Leon Powe or Glen Davis because he wanted to maintain the second unit's chemistry. But Scalabrine also gives the first unit more of an outside shooting threat, and when the Celtics saw their lead trimmed to just four points and needed a big hoop in the game's waning minutes, Scalabrine answered the bell.

Whereas in the past, Scalabrine has turned down open looks and deferred to his All-Star teammates, tonight he pulled the trigger on a huge three from the corner right in front of the Knicks bench with just 1:14 to play to put the C's up seven and squash any run the Knicks were hoping to mount.

"A lot of it is your ability to read and react," Scalabrine said. "You can't pass up those shots, especially at that time in the game."

Rajon Rondo, who'd been attacking the hoop more than usual, drew a host of Knicks defenders on his drive and made an acrobatic kick-out pass to Scalabrine in the corner.

"I've always liked those situations. In practice, Doc puts us in a scenario, 'two minutes to go, tie score, let's go out there and win the game,' so I was very excited about being in that situation. It gets your blood flowing," Scalabrine said. "The ball found me and I just knocked down the shot."

Rivers regularly praises Scalabrine for his work both behind the scenes at practice and away from the ball in games -- like his first quarter charge taken against Zach Randolph. While he's gotten himself into trouble when he's tried to do too much, Scalabrine, says Rivers, may know his role better than anyone on the team.

"What we're trying to do is get Scal to play the game simple. When you're open shoot it, when you're not, pass it. Don't try to force it or make things happen; that's what Paul, Ray (Allen) and Kevin (Garnett), and Rajon (Rondo) are for," Rivers said. "He's starting to buy that and I think you can see it in his play."