Jerryd Bayless used to torch the Celtics.
He scored 15 fourth-quarter points against them last November, then another 22 later that month. And in March of 2013, he lit them up for 30.
In all three games, Bayless led his former team, Memphis, to a win.
So the Celtics acquired the guard in January, in part to keep him from being a thorn in their side.
And Wednesday night, the player who used to torch the Celtics led them to victory, scoring a season-high 29 in a 115-104 win over Atlanta that snapped Boston’s five-game losing streak.
“He’s done a lot of good things for us since he’s been here,” said coach Brad Stevens, “but he’s really impressed me with his ballhandling and his decision-making and then on nights like this, obviously, it’s doubled.”
Bayless made 12 of 21 shots, along with 5 of 8 from 3-point range. He also scored 21 points in the second half, including 12 in the third quarter.
In short, he was in the proverbial “zone” as the Celtics have seen all too often, although this time it was with him on their side.
“It just went in tonight,” Bayless said. “I wish it would happen every night, but it worked well tonight.”
Because of injuries, Bayless made his first start with the Celtics and topped his previous season-high point total of 22, which he achieved Nov. 27, 2013 against — who else? — the Celtics. He also came within 2 points of tying his career-high.
So the question is whether Bayless will be in the starting lineup again soon.
“It’s a good question,” Stevens said. “I haven’t thought about it since the game ended, but I think it’s a reasonable question to consider for Saturday [against Indiana].”
The Celtics (20-39) opened a five-game homestand with their seventh win in the last 29 games.
“We needed this win, especially the way we started the game off,” said Gerald Wallace, who had 12 points and 10 rebounds off the bench. “I think I heard a boo, but we deserved it the way we started the game off.”
Indeed, the Celtics faithful at TD Garden offered a few boos early on when they saw their team fall in a quick 21-6 hole in the first quarter.
At one point, the Celtics had three field goals and five turnovers.
But they responded with a 17-2 run that spanned two quarters to take a 33-29 lead in the second quarter.
The Celtics led by 2 after three quarters. But in the fourth, they piled up 34 points, hitting 12 of 22 shots and all eight of their free throws.
Rajon Rondo scored 22 points, his most since returning to action last month after missing nearly a year following a knee injury.
The point guard knocked down 5 of 6 from the free-throw line and added 11 assists in 36 minutes.
“Where I’m best is in transition,” Rondo said. “We were able to get some stops and some turnovers, and I just tried to push the pace. Guys ran with me, I attacked in the open court. I got to the free-throw line.”
Jeff Green scored 17 points and had eight rebounds. Brandon Bass had 14 points and eight rebounds.
Jeff Teague scored 26 points and DeMarre Carroll added 24 for the Hawks (26-31).
But the Celtics mostly fed off Bayless, who made many plays with and without the help of Rondo.
“Jerryd is a scorer,” Rondo said. “He doesn’t really need me out there to make plays. He made a lot of plays for himself. But when I did find him, or when guys found him, he knocked down shots tonight.”
The Celtics also outrebounded the Hawks by 17, an impressive feat as Boston had just nine players available with Jared Sullinger (concussion), Avery Bradley (ankle), Kelly Olynyk (toe), and Vitor Faverani (knee) all sidelined.
“We did it collectively as a team,” Rondo said. “It wasn’t just one guy. Whether it was Jerryd scoring, Jeff and Gerald rebounding, it was a team effort. It was a good win for us coming off a tough stretch on the road.”
No doubt, the Celtics needed the win, especially after going winless on their four-game trip out West.
“We kinda let some games slip away there,” Wallace said. “You don’t want to come back your first game and get blown out because of lack of energy.
“You gotta come out and compete, come out and do something, get back into this game and take control of this game.”
But the Celtics don’t have a player who will put up 30 points a game every night, such as a Kevin Durant. Instead, they have to try and find the hot hand.
“I’m sure it would be fun to play with Kevin [Durant], but it’s fun playing with guys that are just hungry and want to compete every night,” Rondo said.
“And the best thing about our team is, you can’t really scout one guy. It’s a team effort. Some night it may be Jeff, Sully. Tonight it was Jerryd.”
Bayless said he has started to find his place with the Celtics.
“I understand what [Stevens] wants,” he said.
What Stevens would like most is for Bayless to remain in the zone he was in Wednesday, preferably for as long as he’s with — and no longer against — the Celtics.