Wilcox rises to the challenge

Wilcox rises to the challenge
February 23, 2013, 1:00 am
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The Celtics needed Chris Wilcox to step up against the Suns and he did just that.

(AP Photo)

PHOENIX — Whenever Chris Wilcox enters the game, there's a certain amount of pressure to perform.

But after the C's traded away Jason Collins on Thursday to Washington for Jordan Crawford, that left Wilcox as the lone Celtics big man that they would turn to (Fab Melo is on the roster, but he ain't playing until the game is all but over most nights).

And when you throw in C's coach Doc Rivers turning up the pressure after reiterating this point to Wilcox during a recent meeting, Friday's game against Phoenix was easily the biggest of the season for Wilcox.

Fortunately for the Celtics, Wilcox rose to the occasion as Boston easily defeated the Suns, 113-88.

And Wilcox was among those who stepped up with a strong performance. He led all Celtics reserves in scoring with season-high 14 points and led all Boston players overall with eight rebounds.

Rivers has not minced his words when it comes to Wilcox who has maintained for weeks has the ability to contribute more to the C's cause than he has thus far this season.

As far as Wilcox's performance on Friday?

"That was it; that was it," Rivers said. "But now, it has to be again and again and again. It can't be one game and go have a parade. He has to keep doing it."

Wilcox understands this all too well.

In fact, it has been the one knock against him throughout his NBA career which includes zero trips to the playoffs.

Wilcox acknowledged that he does feel a greater sense of pressure knowing how short-handed the Celtics are in the frontcourt.

But those lack of big bodies affords him an opportunity to play more minutes, which if he's productive, will lead to even more playing time.

And yes, the conversation Rivers had with him earlier in the day was definitely on his mind.

"Doc pulled me to the side and told me what he needed from me," Wilcox recalled. "He needed me to bring energy, run the floor and just be aggressive. That's what I did tonight."

And he did it in a variety of ways, but mostly by shear hustle.

After entering the game at the 4:21 mark of the first quarter, Paul Pierce connected with Wilcox on an alley-oop just 25 seconds later.

Later in the quarter, Terrence Williams spots Wilcox running down the middle of the lane and threads the Suns defense with a pass to Wilcox that ends with a dunk to put the Celtics ahead by 11 points.

It was that kind of night for Wilcox, steadily contributing to the C's lead without having a single play called for him all game.

"I just run the floor, play my part and good things happen," Wilcox said. "I never been a big-time scorer in this league, but I know my role. Go out, play hard and just be aggressive and bring energy."