Luke Harangody has game he's awaited

BOSTON -- Fresh off his finest night as a pro, Luke Harangody was quickly reminded of his rookie status by his Boston Celtics teammates following Friday's 122-102 thrashing of the Toronto Raptors at TD Garden.

Harangody, a postgame guest on the Celtics' radio network, was dishing about a night of firsts -- his first career double-double (17 points, 11 rebounds), his first NBA 3-pointer and hitting his first five shots to pace Boston to a lopsided halftime lead -- when he was dragged back to the locker room.

Unfortunately for Harangody, no one was waiting there with a game ball.

Instead, Harangody joined fellow rookies Avery Bradley and Semih Erden in the latest not-so-enthusiastic rendition of "Happy Birthday," this performance in honor of teammate Marquis Daniels turning 30.

"This is just one game; nothing's changed," Harangody said later while drawing the biggest media crowd of the night (much to the delight of captain Paul Pierce, who gleefully passed his typical postgame media chores to the rookie). "My role is always defense and to go out there and rebound. I'm going to do that first and foremost."

To be sure, Harangody did both of those things Friday night. Caught defensively in a third-quarter pick-and-roll, he produced one of the highlights of a somewhat perfunctory second half by chasing down Toronto's Ed Davis from behind and swatting a layup attempt.

The 6-foot-8 Harangody was also active on the glass, leading his team in rebounding against an opponent that had dominated Boston in three previous regular-season meetings. Harangody mixed four offensive rebounds with seven defensive caroms while hauling in nearly a quarter of the Celtics' 43 boards.

But don't be fooled. It was his offense that ultimately allowed him to thrive, a couple early buckets letting him simply play his game for the first time all season.

"The one thing he is not is shy; I think he was [shy] in all of a half a second and [then] he took a shot," joked Celtics coach Doc Rivers. "The whole bench started laughing because that's who he is. And we want him to stay that way."

Indeed, 10 seconds after checking in for Glen Davis, Harangody drilled a 20-foot jumper. He later added a pair of layups and a 14-foot baseline jumper before the end of the first quarter, doubling his previous career high for points (four) in a mere four minutes.

Riding that momentum, Harangody canned his first NBA 3-pointer 30 seconds into the second half, the Garden faithful swooning over their new bench crush. They would serenade him with chants of "Ha-ran-go-dy!" later in the night.

Harangody finished 8-of-11 from the floor in 26:42. He was also plus-13 in the plus/minus category, not too shabby for someone who drew a tough defensive assignment on Andrea Bargnani.

"It's funny, our whole coaching debate all day was: When you take [Glen Davis] off the floor, Bargnani was going to still be on the floor, who do we put in?" Rivers said. "And we went with Luke. I just thought his energy, No. 1, was fantastic. And he made shots. He can do that when he slows down a little bit and I thought he did that today. He's an uncanny rebounder for his size. He was in college, and he still is."

Harangody, the 52nd overall pick in June's draft, boasted as many NBA appearances as "DNP -- Coach's Decision" this season (16) entering Friday's game. Unfazed, he's seen his minutes jump up recently with Kevin Garnett sidelined by a strained right calf, then earned the right to stay on the floor with his energetic play.

Even as he spent the better part of November and early December glued to the bench, Harangody never got discouraged.

"On this team, you gotta look around this locker room and realize who's around," Harangody said. "I just took it as an honor to be in this locker room with all the Hall of Famers in here."

Which is why he added that he's not getting "too high or too low," particularly after Friday's game. The Celtics were headed to Chicago following the win and Harangody -- born in Decatur, Ill. -- expects a throng of family and friends at Saturday's game against the Bulls at the United Center.

But with Garnett set to return as early as Monday and fellow big man Kendrick Perkins talking Friday about getting back into game action in three weeks, Harangody's opportunities are likely to dwindle soon.

So he's making the most of his chances, and that means being his shot-happy self.

"I think we should blame -- or thank -- [Notre Dame coach] Mike Brey for that," Rivers said. "I watched him a couple of times against Georgetown when my son was there and he shot it basically every time he touched it. He's just keeping that tradition going."

And if he keeps putting up these type of numbers, the Celtics won't try to change him.

"He'll make mistakes because he's young and he'll make mistakes because he's going fast, but he'll never make a mistake because he's not going hard," Rivers said. "To me, as a coach, as long as he doesn't hurt the team too much with mistakes, you love him."

But even loved rookies need to be reminded of their status. And when Rajon Rondo's birthday rolls around in late February, Harangody will undoubtedly be singing yet again.

Chris Forsberg is the Celtics reporter for ESPNBoston.com. Follow him on Twitter.