Sullinger's performance in 1st start gives C's hope

Sullinger's performance in 1st start gives C's hope
November 21, 2013, 1:00 am
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The loss-o-meter continues to rise with each passing day for the Celtics, losers of five in a row following the 104-93 loss in San Antonio on Wednesday.

Still, in the never-ending search for success, opportunities will surely present themselves to all the Celtics players at some point this season.

Wednesday night was Jared Sullinger's turn.

And to his credit, the 6-foot-9 burly big man stepped up in a big way.

Making his first start of the season, Sullinger had 19 points and a career-high 17 rebounds, doing much of his dirty work while battling a talented San Antonio frontline that was led by Tim Duncan, the one that many around these parts still feel should have been a Celtic when he came out of Wake Forest in 1997.

But the basketball gods felt differently as the Celtics, with the worst record leading up to that draft, wound up the No. 3 pick and took Chauncey Billups and ... yeah, I don't want think it, either.

A better topic to talk about is Sullinger, who didn't get off to the best of starts in his matchup with Duncan.

Less than a minute into the game, Duncan had four points - all scored on Sullinger.

Then for the rest of the night, the future Hall of Famer missed 10 of his 11 field goal attempts and finished with just 13 points.

It was the kind of in-game growth that speaks to all the praise that Sullinger has been given for having a high basketball IQ.

"I was just playing basketball, feeding off others," Sullinger told reporters after the game.

It was a strong performance against one of the better teams in the NBA, something that both the Celtics and Sullinger will try to build on.

Aside from his performance, the biggest contribution he made was that he provided an inside presence.

The more you watch this team play, it's clear that they need at least one player they can turn to with some consistency, that can get them some production around the basket.

Of all the players that have auditioned for that role this season, Sullinger has been the one most up to the challenge.

The fact that he's an undersized power forward certainly doesn't make the challenge any easier.

But in his short time in Boston, Sullinger has proven himself a crafty scorer around the basket, a heady rebounder and this season, a big man who can stretch the floor with his perimeter shooting.

He gives the Celtics hope that they will someday have a balanced offensive attack that can hurt teams from the perimeter, or they can slow it down and beat teams up in the post.

This season, Boston has actually been pretty good when they have made getting shots in the paint a priority.

Throughout most of this season, the Celtics have been among the NBA's leaders in field-goal percentage on shots taken in the paint.

Having a player in the starting lineup to anchor that scoring such as Sullinger, bodes well for a Boston team that's still in search of an identity they can cling to.

Starting or coming off the bench.

Sullinger doesn't seem to care, either way.

"I'm always ready to play," he said. "That's just who I am. I hate losing more than I love winning. That's just who I am. I'm going to continue to be that guy."