C's are KG's Team
This was Kevin Garnett's team from the day he arrived, and it will be Kevin Garnett's team until the day he departs. And so last night, unsurprisingly, the Celtics lined up behind Kevin Garnett.
``From what you heard of the past, he was more of a leader by example and didn't demand a lot from his teammates. That was one of the things you heard from early in his career - that he was too nice,'' coach Doc Rivers said of Garnett following his team's 90-78 win over the Detroit Pistons. ``Clearly, that has changed with us.''
Oh, the Celtics have a nice team this year, now the possessors of a league-best 46-12 record with roughly six weeks to go. Nice will get them nowhere come springtime. What will be required then is for the Celtics to be ruthless, tenacious and even downright nasty, because we all know where nice guys finish when the games are for real.
So there was Garnett last night, scoring a season-high 31 points against a Pistons team that the Celtics almost certainly will encounter in the playoffs this year. (Let us pray.) There was Garnett, matching a season-high with 22 shots. (He made 13, slightly more than 59 percent.) And there was Garnett, erupting at teammates Kendrick Perkins and James Posey when the two battled for a loose ball with just under eight minutes to play in what was the closest thing this season to a home playoff game.
From the beginning of this game to the end, Kevin Garnett was in charge.
And everybody in a Celtics uniform knew it.
``I was just telling them to communicate,'' Garnett said when asked about the message to Perkins and Posey.
He added with a grin: ``I don't think they heard me a couple of times, so I just repeated it - louder.''
Before we go on, let's all acknowledge something: Last night's game between the two best teams in the Eastern Conference would have brought greater meaning had the Celtics lost. After all, this was their building. The Pistons played Tuesday (100-97 home win over Seattle). The Celtics should have won and they did, which gives them a comfortable cushion over the Pistons in the competition for homecourt advantage. Beyond that, there is little to take from it.
With regard to Garnett, the Celtics clearly made a point of getting him involved early, riding him to a sizzling 17-3 start in the first five minutes. Garnett opened the game by scoring the Celtics' first two field goals in the first minute of play, and the tone was set.
The best news is that Garnett kept shooting - and kept making.
``He stayed aggressive,'' Rivers said. ``Kevin is such a team player (that) if he scores three or four (field goals) in a row, on the fifth time he likes to pass.''
Last night, he kept firing away.
The NBA being what it is, there is simply no substitute for star power, particularly in the playoffs. That is a lesson LeBron James learned last year. Nationally questioned for giving up the ball in the final seconds of Cleveland's loss to the Pistons in Game 1 of the Eastern Conference finals, James got far more selfish beginning in Game 3. In the final four games of the series - all Cavaliers wins - James averaged 31.3 points, scoring 48 in a pivotal Game 5 win at Detroit.
All of this brings us back to Garnett, who has been nothing if not team-oriented since the day he became a Celtic. For a player and personality of his magnitude, he possesses astonishingly little ego. But during a game in which Ray Allen finished with a mere three points, the Celtics last night needed Garnett to burden an uncharacteristic amount of their offense, only adding to Garnett's reputation throughout the NBA.
``He's a leader,'' Indiana Pacers president of basketball operations Larry Bird succinctly stated of Garnett earlier this week.
Takes one to know one.