BOSTON — Shavlik Randolph was scoring around the basket, dominating the boards . . . and no, this was no highlight reel from his days in the Chinese Basketball Association.
This time of year, big games from not-so-big names on NBA rosters is the norm. And you can add Randolph to that list.
But despite one of his best games ever as an NBA player, it wasn't enough as the Celtics fell 97-91 to Cleveland.
Randolph did his part, scoring a career-high 16 points on 6-for-9 shooting to go with 7 rebounds in just over 13 minutes of court time.
"He's playing great," said coach Doc Rivers. "And we're just going to keep on playing him."
That's fine with Randolph, one of several Celtics bench players trying to do enough in these remaining regular-season games to impress Rivers enough to keep him in the playoff rotation when the postseason arrives.
Boston has seen what Randolph can provide defensively and on the boards. But Friday's game was the first time where the Celtics seemingly made a point to try and get him the ball around the basket.
"I was just rolling to the basket and guys were finding me," Randolph said. "It's simple as that; I was getting good passes."
And even more important, he was finishing . . . which, aside from Kevin Garnett (who is out with inflammation in his left foot), seldom happens when discussing one of the C's big men.
"He scores down low," Rivers said. "It takes a while, but he does. And what's amazing with him, sometimes you think he should have gone right up. And because it takes a while, he ends up with a three-point play. It's the damnedest thing, but we like it."
The play of Randolph was one of the factors that kept the C's in the game. Here are some other factors outlined prior to the game, and how they ultimately played out:
WHAT TO LOOK FOR: The Celtics have ranked among the NBA's top shooting teams most of this season, and they're off to a good start here in April. Although they've only played two games this month, the C's are shooting 51.3 percent from the field which ranks fourth in the league thus far this month. For the season, Boston is ranked seventh while shooting
46.3 percent from the field.
WHAT WE SAW: It's a never a good sign when you shoot better than 61 percent from the field in the first quarter and yet only lead by two points. As Boston's shooting cooled off, so went its control of the game. And when you throw in not-so-stellar shooting with being minus-16 on the boards, beating any team - even the Cavaliers - is an uphill battle.
MATCHUP TO WATCH: Avery Bradley vs Kyrie Irving: Bradley has looked a lot better the last couple of games scoring the ball. But a good game for him tonight will be predicated on how well he does at slowing down Irving, who is one of the most difficult players in the league to contain because of the variety of ways he can hurt teams and his unmistakeable feel for the game, which, for such a young player, is unusual.
WHAT WE SAW: Both players had moments when they stood out, but for the most part neither played particularly well. Bradley had 10 points, but did so on 3-for-12 shooting; his defense was solid, but it was far from having the game-changing impact folks have come to expect. Irving had 11 points on 4-for-20 shooting, which included him missing six of his seven shots in the fourth quarter.
PLAYER TO WATCH: Jordan Crawford continues to draw Rivers' praise with his play, which includes him contributing in other ways besides scoring. In Boston's 93-92 win at Cleveland on March 27, Crawford had 12 points and 4 assists off the bench. Even more significant was his plus/minus ratio of plus-11, which was tops among all Celtics that game.
WHAT WE SAW: This was not one of Crawford's better games in terms of shooting the ball, as he missed 11 of his 14 shot attempts. But he continues to find favor with Rivers, who maintains that Crawford is helping the C's in other ways besides scoring. Even though Crawford had a team-high five assists, it was one of the few games since the C's traded for him from Washington that his negative plays seemed to outweigh his positive ones.
STAT TO TRACK: No Kevin Garnett (left foot inflammation) has made scoring points in the paint even tougher for the Celtics. But in their last meeting with the Cavs, the C's did edge the Cavs 40-38 on points in the paint, with the Jeff Green's game-winning lay-up at the buzzer putting the C's over the top in that category as well as the game itself.
WHAT WE SAW: The Cavaliers owned the Celtics in this statistical category, with Tristan Thompson (career-high 29 points along with 17 rebounds) setting the tone for a dominant game by the Cavs around the basket. For the game, Cleveland outscored the C's 52-38 on points in the paint.