Blakely: Garnett's defensive wisdom crucial for Celtics

Blakely: Garnett's defensive wisdom crucial for Celtics
November 4, 2012, 4:44 pm
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WASHINGTON The Celtics added lots of talent this offseason that we're slowly discovering will take more time than expected to fit in -- especially in terms of the C's defense.

It's not because of a lack of effort or guys being unnecessarily stubborn, either. Simply put, they don't know better.

Which is why Kevin Garnett the player morphs into Garnett the teacher. As Garnett goes, so goes the defensive pendulum of this team. It's that simple.

We have seen how discombobulated this team is when he's not on the floor for an extended period of time. He is their defensive anchor, with no semblance of a substitute anywhere in sight. The Celtics will drift aimlessly if he's not in the mix on a regular basis.

On Saturday, Celtics fans got to see Garnett as engaged defensively as we've seen all season. And not surprisingly, the C's emerged victorious with a three-point win that came down to them needing to make four consecutive stops defensively to get the win.

"We're a defensive team that can score the basketball," Garnett said. "We have to make sure we understand who we are."

Garnett certainly made his share of big plays defensively for the Celtics, but he wasn't alone. The C's collective efforts defensively showcase just how Garnett's defense can be infectious.

I asked Paul Pierce earlier this year about how his game defensively has evolved over the years.

"A lot changed when Kevin came here, truthfully," Pierce said. "When you play with someone like Kevin, you can't help but become a better defender. He won't let you not become a better defender."

Challenging teammates constructively is one of the hidden strengths that Garnett brings to the game. So much talk surrounding last season's unexpected playoff run to the Eastern Conference finals focused on the Celtics' turn-around following the all-star break.

But it was the post-game locker room spiel by Garnett following a blowout loss to Oklahoma City right before the break, that seemed to set the C's turnaround in motion. Garnett delivered a colorful but poignant message to his teammates that night, and delivered a different but just as effective sermon following the team's loss to the Milwaukee Bucks.

As much as defense is about how you fare in your individual matchup, Garnett stresses the value of team unity and how it translates into being a good team defensively.

His example of how the Celtics need to be like hyenas who feast on prey collectively, clearly struck a chord with his teammates who all seemed to ratchet up their defensive play against the Wizards.

As good as Garnett's spiels are, Tony Robbins has nothing to worry about.

Still, there is no way to get around how when KG talks -- and he talks a lot -- teammates listen, from rookies like Jared Sullinger to 14-year veterans like Jason Terry.

"His understanding of the game, and what it takes to win at the highest levels is unbelievable," Terry said. "I don't care how long you been in the NBA. When a player like Kevin Garnett talks, a future Hall of Famer who has done all that he has done both individually and for teams, you better listen. You would be stupid not to."