#5 Looking Pretty Solid
You can call him KG. Or Big Ticket. Or, as many of his teammates do, simply Ticket.
We learned again yesterday, however, that Kevin Garnett answers to ``Kev'' when he's talking to himself. This piece of invaluable knowledge was available to those in the lower sections of the Garden's east end when Garnett began yelling at himself during the second quarter last night.
``Shoot the ball, Kev,'' he said. ``Shoot the (expletive) ball.''
The self abuse came after Garnett passed up an open jumper and committed a turnover instead. Sufficiently chastised, he rolled to the hoop a few moments later and jammed. Hard.
All in all, he didn't have to be too hard on himself. In his eighth game back from an abdominal strain, his ability finally and truly caught up with his intensity.
Garnett - or ``Kev,'' if you wish - was asked about that following the 98-88 victory over Atlanta, but before he could answer, Paul Pierce intercepted the question.
``He's all the way back,'' said Pierce, a broad smile creasing his face. ``Didn't y'all watch the game tonight? When he's going to the basket inside-outside and dominating the rebounds - that's the Kevin Garnett I like to see.''
That Kevin Garnett had 20 points and 16 rebounds in 35 minutes, blocking no shots but altering several Hawk forays to the hoop. He was the anchor of a defense that held the visitors to 39.5 percent shooting. And his three assists included a slick lefty behind-the-back number to Glen Davis. That one brought Kendrick Perkins out of his seat on the bench like a rocket - a rather impressive feat in its own right. Earlier there was a one-touch redirection to Perkins for a jam.
The word we're looking for here is, uh, impact.
``Not just scoring,'' said Doc Rivers, taking the word and running. ``He's blocking shots. He's showing again on our pick and rolls. He's making our defense active and aggressive again. He scores, but his passing is just contagious.
``His rhythm is coming back on the post. He's starting to drive the ball more, and that's really nice to see. We need it.''
When Garnett is this active, the effects reverberate up and down the roster. It was there on the court and it was there last night on the bench when he cooled down Rajon Rondo after the latter got into it a bit with Rivers on the bench.
Garnett has had some decent games since his return - the 18-point, 11-board effort against Cleveland was none too shabby - but this was the first time it appeared his body was able to respond to the demands he places upon it. He wasn't a half-step off on anything last night.
``I had a decent night,'' Garnett understated after Pierce's testimonial. ``I was active early. I was able to get some rebounds early.''
As usual, he then passed again, shoveling off credit to his mates.
``I thought Perk did a great job talking and communicating, trying to shut the middle or at least control the middle,'' Garnett said. ``Paul did a great job talking with us. I think our starting five had, as far as communicating and what we want to be defensively, as solid a game as it's been all year. I have to credit Perk for talking to me. The way we dialogued tonight was great.
``I'm human, too, and I do have rust,'' he continued. ``You know, nothing shows that better than game film. Good thing we have days of practice and days where you can come in and work on some stuff and work some of that dust off.
``You know, I've got some above-average teammates who make the game easy at times. I've been just playing through the offense, playing real free if you will and taking the shots when they're there - and at the same time trying to get back into rhythm. So I'm coming along slowly but surely.''
Surely? Yes. Slowly? Last night not so much.