As a rookie on a team as well-stocked as the Boston Celtics, Luke Harangody’s playing time has been sparse.
He finally got a chance Friday when coach Doc Rivers turned him loose, and Harangody shined with the best game of his young career in the short-handed Celtics’ 122-102 victory over the Toronto Raptors.
Harangody had career highs with 17 points and 11 rebounds for his first NBA double-double and added a pair of blocks, also more than he had ever done in 16 previous appearances. He played 26:42 – 10 minutes more than he ever had – and made 8-of-11 shots.
”On this team, you have to take a look around the locker room and realize who’s around,” Harangody said, understanding his limited playing time. ”This was just one game. Nothing has changed. My role is always defensive and get a rebound.”
His role Friday was a little bit of everything as the Celtics earned the 3,000th victory in franchise history.
Harangody, a rookie from Notre Dame, had never played more than 16 minutes in a game. He got in early and had doubled his career high for points (four) by the end of the first quarter. His previous highs for rebounds was also four.
”He was great. He was phenomenal,” Rivers said. ”He’ll make mistakes because he’s young. He’ll make mistakes because he’s going too fast. He’ll never make mistakes because he’s not playing hard.”
The Celtics maintained the best record in the Eastern Conference at 28-7 as they boarded a flight for Saturday’s game at Chicago.
Boston has gone 5-1 since star forward Kevin Garnett went out with a right calf injury. He could be back as early as next week, but until he’s ready Rivers saw Friday night he has another dependable reserve behind the Celtics’ All-Star starting lineup.
”I just thought his energy was fantastic,” Rivers said. ”When he slows down, he can make shots. He’s an uncanny rebounder for his size.”
Paul Pierce scored 20 and Ray Allen added 17 for Boston, which tied a season high for points in a half with 67 in the first and never let the Raptors get closer than 12 in the second half.
”They don’t panic at all. They know what they’ve got to do if they get down,” said DeMar DeRozan, who led Toronto with 20 points. They know exactly what to do and that’s something we definitely could learn from a team like Boston.”
Toronto has lost four of five and seven of nine despite shooting well (40 for 79) on Friday. But the Celtics outscored the Raptors 54-44 in the paint and outrebounded them 43-31.
The Raptors got as close as 13 in the third and were down 87-73 after two foul shots by Amir Johnson before Harangody helped quickly rebuild Boston’s lead. Pierce made two free throws to put the Celtics up 89-73, then Harangody blocked a layup attempt by Ed Davis and rumbled back to the Celtics’ end to score on his own layup with 1:53 left in the third.
Andrea Bargnani got Toronto within 98-86, but that was as close as the Raptors would come. The Celtics scored the next 10 points during a 15-1 run that sealed the victory and a 3-1 win for the Celtics in the season series.
Allen started it with a 3-pointer, Harangody hit an 18-footer and Nate Robinson took a steal in for a layup to put Boston ahead 109-86. Harangody showed some agility a few minutes later when he drove under the basket and banked in a reverse layup to put Boston up 113-87.
Fans reveled in the rookie’s career night and chanted ”Luuuuke!” throughout the game.
Notes: All five Toronto starters scored in double figures. Linas Kleiza and Bargnani had 17 apiece. Jose Calderon scored 11 and Johnson added 10. … Friday’s win gave Rivers 308 with the Celtics, tying him with K.C. Jones for third on the franchise list – still a long way from Red Auerbach’s 795. … The Celtics also scored 67 points in the second half of their victory over the New York Knicks on Dec. 15.