BOSTON -- Jared Sullinger feasted on the New York Knicks' interior defense (or lack thereof) to the tune of 17 first-half points (Sullinger was 5-of-7 shooting and got to the charity stripe for seven free throw attempts). Naturally, with the game in the balance in the fourth quarter, Boston Celtics coach Brad Stevens leaned on rookie center Vitor Faverani instead.
Faverani, the Brazilian import who made a big splash early in the season but has been used sparingly in recent weeks, played a team-high 10:47 in the fourth quarter, chipping in five points and four rebounds while finishing plus-13 in plus/minus for the frame as the Celtics rallied from an 11-point deficit for a 90-86 triumph at TD Garden.
Asked to explain the decision to stick with Faverani, Stevens quipped, "Very little brain power put to it. All vision of, ‘Hey, that guy’s really in a nice groove.’ [Brandon] Bass is our best bet on [Andrea] Bargnani if Jeff [Green is] going to guard Carmelo [Anthony]. And we’ve got a nice rhythm going. Vitor made a huge 3, made a huge catch-and-finish with a minute to go, but more than anything I felt like we had rim protection at a pretty good level down in the paint with him in the game and we were also rebounding. So, all gut, no math or science behind that one. That was just one of those lucky things that happened the right way."
With Boston down seven with less than nine minutes to play, Faverani drilled a 3-pointer to help aid the rally. Later, with Boston clinging to a two-point lead, Faverani worked a little pick-and-roll with Jordan Crawford that led to an easy layup and a two-possession lead with 1:07 to go.
Heck, Faverani even got switched onto Anthony at times during the fourth quarter and made it tough on New York's superstar with his length.
Stevens lamented not giving the first-year center more time during Wednesday's loss to the visiting Los Angeles Clippers. This time around he stuck with Faverani and was rewarded. And Sullinger was perfectly fine with playing the role of spectator down the stretch.
"I’m happy for Vitor," said Sullinger. "He’s been a pro's pro, never complained. ... He played great [and] helped us win."
A handful of notes after Boston's come-from-behind triumph over New York:
LEE'S CONTRIBUTIONS: It'll blend into the scenery a bit, but Courtney Lee scored 14 of his 18 points in the first half Friday, helping Boston build as much as a 17-point first-half lead. He finished 6-of-8 shooting overall and made all three of his 3-point attempts over 19:05. Lee has noted he has put in a lot of work on his shot this season, and the results are obvious. "I’ve been satisfied with my shot," said Lee. "I knew it was going to get better, but I feel a lot better with the release and shooting and whatnot. And like I said, repetition, every day after practice."
OLYNYK'S RETURN: Rookie Kelly Olynyk returned from a 10-game absence to chip in four points, four rebounds and a block over 14:20 (he did a have a team-high three turnovers). Asked how the ankle responded to the activity, Olynyk said, "Pretty good. A little sore, obviously, but I was happy with it." Olynyk's night was highlighted by a third-quarter chasedown block. After committing a turnover in the offensive end, Olynyk hustled as Iman Shumpert streaked the other way and the Celtics big man produced an emphatic swat that left Olynyk tumbling to the ground on the baseline. Said Olynyk, "I don’t remember [the block]. I made a bad post-pass to Brandon Bass, turned it over, so I had to do something."
C'S NEEDED THIS: Stevens took great pride in how his team gutted out this victory (especially after breezing to a 41-point win over the Knicks five days earlier). Said Stevens: “I wouldn’t want to go through it again, but that’s exactly what our team needed. We needed to have a lead, lose it, be backed up against the wall, and figure out a way to win. Because we talked about how in some of these games, like Wednesday night, the air kind of went out of the tires in the third quarter and we kind of -- we didn’t feel like we just stayed connected throughout the whole last 24 minutes, which is easy to do. Ninety-nine percent of the teams in the world will do that in those circumstances, in circumstances like tonight. But what you want to do is tighten, tighten it even more, stay together, become even more accountable, more resilient, and even tougher together, and that was what happened tonight. We had 10 guys play well at different points in time throughout the game, but it was very unpredictable."
PRAISE FOR BENCH: Boston's bench combined for a measly four points in Wednesday's loss to the Clippers, but rebounded to register 38 points on 14-of-23 shooting overall (60.9 percent). Said Stevens, "Good to have those guys come in off the bench and play well. I thought Gerald [Wallace] was really good tonight. Courtney was obviously good. Phil [Pressey] was good and Vitor, obviously, in the second stint was very, very good and I thought Kelly ran out of gas in the fourth quarter, but looked pretty good in the first half."