WALTHAM With the clock winding down to end the third quarter of Boston's Game 6 matchup against Atlanta, Rajon Rondo pulled up for a jumper that took one of those funny bounces off the rim. An alert Ryan Hollins chased the loose ball down. Moments later, Rondo hit a jumper to put the Celtics up by four points at the end of three quarters.
With the game's balance very much up in the air in the closing moments, Hollins once again came up with an offensive rebound that ultimately led to Kevin Garnett's go-ahead basket with 30 seconds to play in Boston's 83-80 Game 6 win over Atlanta that propelled the C's to the second round of the playoffs.
Hollins is the latest Celtic backup to make the most of his opportunity to play.
He's sure to get even more chances in the second round against a Philadelphia team that's loaded with athletic players on the perimeter and in the frontcourt.
In addition to his rebounding which has never been a strength of his, Hollins is also finding other ways to impact the game.
When you watch Hollins play, it's clear that his hustle and energy bothers some players and at times, makes them respond in a way that only benefits the C's.
"He's an irritant," said C's coach Doc Rivers. "He (bleep) guys off in practice. He does. he just irritates people, and I thought especially against Atlanta, they had guys who'd get upset. I thought Ryan's actions would bother some of the guys. The funny thing is, he's the nicest guy. He doesn't mean to. It's just what he does."
Boston will look for more of the same in their second round series against Philadelphia which begins in Boston on Saturday.
While the Celtics' Big Four and key rotation guys such as Brandon Bass and Avery Bradley will indeed garner most of the attention, the Celtics are well aware that it will take the play of some of the team's unsung heroes - players like Hollins - to contribute in a meaningful way even if his statistics only tell part of the story of how much he has contributed to the C's being where they are now.
"He's one of the better defensive centers in the league," said Boston's Paul Pierce. "He had a huge offensive rebound there late in the game when Kevin missed. Doc is going to call upon certain guys on certain nights; some guys won't play on certain nights, some guys will and they have to be ready. Ryan Hollins is just one of those guys that was ready to play (in Game 6)."