Celtics reserve forward/center Glen Davis is already guaranteed a spot in Boston's 12-man playoff rotation, but he still had something to gain from playing 40 minutes in Monday's 95-94 overtime loss to the Washington Wizards.
Having struggled mightily in the six games prior to Monday's tilt in the nation's capital, Davis earned a starting nod at the power forward spot as Celtics coach Doc Rivers elected to rest his four All-Stars, and tied Jeff Green for a team-high 20 points on 6-of-13 shooting to go along with three rebounds, four assists, and one stellar block on Wizards center JaVale McGee in overtime.
It was the type of performance Davis needed with the playoffs fast approaching, as in his six previous games he had averaged just 8.1 points, 3.6 rebounds, and had made only 19-of-55 field goal attempts (34.5 percent shooting). His confidence looked visibly shaken throughout the stretch, to the point where he seemed uncertain as to whether he should pass or shoot the ball. He was criticized at times for taking too many perimeter jump shots, and for not rebounding enough.
But Davis remains a pivotal part of Boston's postseason picture, not only as a consistent rock for Rivers off the bench, but as necessary insurance along the front line, in case Shaquille O'Neal cannot make a healthy return. In order for Davis to be that type of impact player, he could not afford to enter the playoffs coming off of perhaps his worst stretch of the season.
Which is why his performance on Monday against the Wizards was so important. After laboring through a first half in which he scored just two points on 1-of-4 shooting and still seemed uncertain at times as to how he should approach the game, Davis broke out over the final two quarters and overtime, scoring 18 points on 5-of-9 shooting from the field and a perfect 8-of-8 showing at the free throw line.
Perhaps most importantly for Davis, he once again became a multi-tooled weapon for Boston. Instead of settling solely for jump shots, he began producing in the paint. With just over four minutes to play in the third frame he took the ball on the left wing, drove right into the paint, spun his way towards the hoop and converted a layup on the right side. Minutes into the fourth quarter he positioned himself in the paint and rose up for another easy layup off of a feed from Von Wafer on the right side.
And despite his recent shooting woes, Davis didn't hesitate to resort back to the jump shot when he needed to, and with 4:27 remaining in the game, he squared up for a crucial jumper from the left corner, giving Boston a 72-71 edge at the time. It was the start of an impressive three-minute stretch for Davis, who fed Carlos Arroyo for a right-corner 3-pointer two minutes later, buried another jumper over Andray Blatche a minute after that, and capped off his 10-point fourth-quarter scoring burst with a pair of free throws after selling a foul on Othyus Jeffers along the baseline with just over a minute to go in regulation.
Davis might have missed a pair of baskets in the opening minutes of overtime, but he responded with what might go down as the Celtics' block of the season as they trailed 90-88 with just under two minutes left. McGee had already thrown down a pair of rim-rattling dunks earlier in the game, and when he received the ball on the right block, he rose up in hopes of another. But there was Davis, who rotated over from the middle of the lane, skied up, and flat-out rejected McGee's attempt with his right hand, nearly pinning the ball to the backboard, as McGee crashed back to the floor.
The block kept the Celtics alive, and, despite their inability to close the contest out with a win, Davis looked like a renewed player by game's end. In fact, he once again looked very much like the player the Celtics will surely be leaning on throughout the postseason.
Greg Payne is a student intern for ESPNBoston.com