‘Assertive’ Garnett continues his strong play
Kevin Garnett doesn’t believe there’s any real change in his game of late, but he may be the only one with that belief.
Garnett had 28 points in the series clincher against Atlanta and 29 in the Celtics’ one-point victory over Philadelphia in Game 1 of the Eastern Conference semifinals. He followed with 15 points in Monday night’s 82-81 loss to the 76ers in Game 2, scoring 11 of those in the fourth quarter. (Game 3 is Wednesday in Philadelphia.)
This is clearly not the same Garnett who rarely demanded the ball in his early years with the Celtics and even before that. That’s the opinion, too, of Flip Saunders, who coached Garnett 10 years in Minnesota and is a consultant to the Celtics during these playoffs.
“From an offensive standpoint, I’d agree that this is the best he’s played in a while,” said Saunders. “And it’s because he’s being more assertive than maybe you’ve seen in the past.”
The Celtics have practically begged Garnett to go inside more and look for his shot, but he has rarely complied.
“Well, I think there’s a couple of things,” said Saunders, who had similar issues at times with Garnett on the Timberwolves. “I think No. 1 is that (Garnett’s) going to do whatever someone asks him to do. He might be reluctant, but I he’s going to try to do it.
“But I think the other thing is that he’s having success, and just like anybody, when something is working, it makes you more willing to go back to it.
“Part of it is a comfort level. I just don’t think he’s always been comfortable playing inside,” added Flip. “And another thing I’ve always said about K.G. is that he exerts so much energy in how he plays that sometimes when he got to the fourth quarter he would be tired. It’s like a car. You’ve got so much gas, and if you’re going to drive a thousand miles and you drive at a higher speed early, you’re not going to have as much gas at the end. And I think Doc (Rivers) and their staff have done a phenomenal job as far as monitoring his time. And by doing that I think he’s been able to have more left in the tank at the end of games.”
But there can be no question Garnett still has a lot to give.
“With a guy like Kevin, you maybe can’t jump as high and do some things like that, but you’re never going to lose the ability to get shots off and those things,” said Saunders. “I just think he’s more comfortable in what he’s doing. And I think there’s no question the move to the center spot helped him. I think he feels that no matter where he goes that he’s quicker than the guy that he’s playing against most of the time.”