Sullinger comes up big for C's with 20/20 night

Sullinger comes up big for C's with 20/20 night
January 16, 2014, 1:00 am
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BOSTON — Late in the fourth quarter on Wednesday, Jared Sullinger went to the free throw line as the Celtics were clinging to a steadily-shrinking lead.

He missed the first free throw, then another, in what was a one-possession game.

Sullinger would later get a chance to redeem himself, which, in some ways, is a microcosm of how things have gone for him the past couple of weeks.

In and out of the starting lineup recently, Sullinger delivered the kind of performance against the Toronto Raptors that was desperately needed for both him and the Celtics.

The 6-foot-9 big man had 25 points and 20 rebounds in an 88-83 win over Toronto.

He became the first Celtic since Kevin Garnett on Nov. 2, 2007 - his first game with the Green Team - to have a 20/20 game.

"That's big time," Sullinger said. "He's a Hall of Famer. But I couldn't do it without my teammates. They put me in the right position to rebound and score."

They did ... by missing a ton of shots from the perimeter and around the basket that were magnets to his mitts.

Of his 20 rebounds, eight were offensive boards.

It was the kind of performance that not only speaks to how good a player Sullinger can be on any given night, but also to how he didn't let the fact that he was taken out of the starting lineup affect his approach to the game.

"I thought it was a good move for the team," Sullinger said of coming off the bench. "Whatever coach [Stevens] says, I do. I've just always been that type of player. I happen to have a dad [Satch Sullinger], he was my high school coach. I understand what coach says is best."

Not surprisingly, Stevens said he was pleased about Sullinger's performance, which is rare in the NBA.

"He's obviously got that ability," Stevens said. "But those are hard to come by, no matter if you have that ability or not."

Even more impressive has been how Sullinger handled his demotion earlier this month.

"I'm proud because of the fact that we've been in a tough stretch, he got taken out of the lineup, he got put back in the lineup, and he got better after he got taken out of the line-up the first time, like he responded the right way," Stevens said.

And on Wednesday, Sullinger responded the right way after missing a couple of free throws with less than a minute to play and Boston clinging to a three-point lead.

Sullinger would get four more free-throw attempts in the quarter, with each ending with a swish through the nets.

"We preach free throws in my family," Sullinger said. "I know I was getting mentally cussed out by my father and my uncle that passed away three years ago, always on my back about free throws. I knew I was getting mentally cussed out by them. It was only right that if I had another opportunity, I had to make them all."