The Celtics have lost six of their last seven games and are closer to last place than first in the Atlantic Division, but as they embark on a five-game West Coast trip, at least one player appears to be trending upward: Kris Humphries.
The 6-foot-9-inch, 235-pound power forward grabbed a game-high 12 rebounds to go with his 7 points and 3 assists Friday night at TD Garden against the New Orleans Pelicans. The Celtics fell, 95-92, despite Humphries’s effort in 24 minutes off the bench, most among the Boston reserves.
With Jared Sullinger playing with a bruised bone in his left hand, Humphries has logged at least 24 minutes in each of the last three games, and he’s grabbed double-digit rebounds in each contest.
“Everyone wants to play. Hopefully [Sullinger] gets his hand right,” Humphries said. “The NBA a lot of times, you’re never going to be 100 percent healthy, especially with a hand injury. We’re hoping he gets there. I’m not a doctor, though.”
Humphries was in the thick of things Friday as the Celtics kept the game competitive down the stretch — something they didn’t do Thursday night in a 94-82 loss to the Bulls.
Humphries’s free throw tied the game at 73 in the first minute of the fourth quarter, moments before a Phil Pressey layup temporarily gave the Celtics the lead.
Humphries also corralled an offensive rebound before assisting on Jordan Crawford’s jumper that extended the Celtics’ advantage to 88-85 with 3:30 remaining.
Humphries’s lone block was a big one.
The Pelicans were clinging to a 93-92 lead in the final half-minute when Humphries stuffed New Orleans guard Tyreke Evans on a drive to the hoop. The ball bounced off Evans and out of bounds, giving Boston a chance to pull ahead.
Brad Stevens pulled Humphries in favor of Sullinger (13 points, 11 rebounds), and the Celtics missed three shots that would have given them the lead or forced overtime.
Humphries collected eight rebounds in the final stanza alone — topping his season average of 4.8 in one quarter.
“Kris is doing what he always does,” Sullinger said. “Hustle, rebounding, defending, knocking down open shots. He’s been doing this all year. That’s what makes him special.”
The Celtics pulled down 22 offensive rebounds, all but one coming from the threesome of Humphries, Sullinger, and Brandon Bass.
“They killed us on the boards,” said New Orleans coach Monty Williams. “It seemed like all day they were getting second-chance points.”
The Celtics finished with 28 second-chance points to the Pelicans’ 11.
“It’s hard to get those offensive rebounds if you’re making shots,” Stevens quipped after the Celtics shot 34.8 percent from the field. “It’s good that we got them and it’s good that we’re rebounding . . . But at the same time, make a couple of more shots, we would’ve taken that instead.”
Humphries expressed a similar sentiment.
“If we shot a little bit better, we’d put ourselves in a position to have a real nice night,” Humphries said. “But when we’re not making shots, it’s tough. I hadn’t been grabbing a whole lot, but I felt pretty good tonight. I got six [offensive boards], Sully got nine, Brandon got six.
“If we can do that, we’re going to be a real good team here on this next road trip.”