Hollins Finally Making Presence Felt

ATLANTA - Doc Rivers loves to remind the media and his team alike that on any given night in the postseason, seldom-used role players can be the guys who end up winning you playoff games.

The Boston Celtics didn’t end up getting the win Tuesday night in Atlanta, so Ryan Hollins’ performance in Game 5 will probably never get its due in the annals of Celtics history. His box score line isn’t exactly the stuff of legends, but his effort and toughness against the Hawks shouldn’t be overlooked.

Ryan Hollins

Ryan Hollins made his presence felt in the paint by banging bodies with Atlanta's bigs.
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Hollins hasn’t had much of a chance to distinguish himself on the floor in meaningful games for the Celtics, as he’s spent much of his time on the roster waiting for an opportunity to make an impact or burning up garbage time minutes. Quality playing time has been hard to come by since he was acquired on March 23, and he didn’t even surface in Game 1 against the Hawks. But he played 12 minutes in Game 4 and almost 20 minutes in Tuesday’s Game 5. It’s a safe bet he’ll factor into Game 6.

Suddenly, Hollins has found himself immersed in Rivers’ rotation, replacing Greg Stiemsma as the main big man off the bench. He gives the Celtics some much-needed size, not to mention grit and attitude, against the Hawks’ now sizeable front court.

“The one thing you know when Ryan comes in the game, is something’s going to happen. It’s going to be good or bad, but something’s happening,” Rivers said. “That’s why we put him in. We rode him.”

Hollins finished his night with just five points, four rebounds, a block and an assist. That’s a garden-variety stat line for a backup center who played 20 minutes. But his work in the intangibles department may have ultimately been more important.

“He’s an instigator with how hard he plays. He gets under people’s skin. That’s fine by us,” Rivers said.

There’s no confusion about Hollins’ role.

“I’m always trying to bring energy,” Hollins said. “If I’m not bringing energy or changing the game, I’m not doing my job. That’s what I do.”

Captain Paul Pierce has played long enough to know that the most unlikely of players can sometimes become heroes for a night in the postseason. Provided that they’re ready when their number is called, that is.

“Some days you get the call, some days you don’t. He’s a really active body that helped lead us defensively on that comeback in the third,” Pierce said of Hollins, who collaborated with Rajon Rondo to lead an epic run late in the third quarter. “There’s going to be many opportunities for a number of guys throughout the course of the playoffs. I’ve seen it a number of times, so it’s important that everybody stays ready.”

Hollins’ biggest moments to date in a Celtics uniform came during the frantic 10-0 run the Celtics strung together to close the third quarter, drawing them to within a bucket as they opened the fourth. Hollins’ offensive rebound that set up a Rondo layup was a key play in the run, and he followed that up moments later by slamming home an alley-oop from Rondo that tied the game at 66-66 with 10:02 to play.

Hollins’ length and athleticism give him the ability to go get a ball that’s thrown near the rim, so much so that Rivers even ran a play for him out of a timeout. With the coach raving about his performance after the game, Hollins can likely expect more minutes in Game 6, especially with the Hawks going back to a big lineup with Al Horford and Josh Smith finally back playing alongside Joe Johnson, Marvin Williams, and Jeff Teague.

“I’m ready for any situation, if they’re big or small,” Hollins said. “Play five minutes, 15, or 20, whatever Doc and this team needs of me.”

More of the same would be just what Doc ordered.