Blakely: Garnett's defensive wisdom crucial for Celtics

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Blakely: Garnett's defensive wisdom crucial for Celtics

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."

Quotes, notes and stars from the Red Sox’ 6-2 win over the Angels

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Quotes, notes and stars from the Red Sox’ 6-2 win over the Angels

Quotes, notes and stars from the Red Sox’ 6-2 win over the Angels:

QUOTES

* “He just had very good command the entire night. Stayed ahead in the count [and] pitched to all quadrants of the strike zone. He used his four-seamer in on some powerful right-handed hitters in their lineup.” John Farrell on Rick Porcello’s performance.

* “We needed a win bad and swung the bats well and played good defense. That’s a big win for us.” Rick Porcello said after his win in an interview with NESN.

* “24 hours ago we were probably in a much different place mentally after a ball game like tonight.” Farrell on the win.

“That was probably the first time I sat on off-speed pitches this whole year. I took a chance, took a gamble.” Jackie Bradley Jr. said on his home run.

NOTES

* Rick Porcello completed his first game in a Red Sox uniform in the 6-2 win. The CG was the fifth of his career and his first since he threw three in 2014. The righty has 14 wins, one win shy of tying his career high.

* Xander Bogaerts had his first multi extra-base hit performance of the season since June 11. He’s only done that twice this season. He extended his hitting streak to 11 games.

* David Ortiz logged his 85th RBI of the season in the win and Mookie Betts his 67th. Heading into Friday night’s game, the two were one of five pairs of teammates ranking in the top 20 in RBI. The list includes Edwin Encarnacion and Josh Donaldson, Nolan Arenado and Trevor Story, Adam Duvall and Jay Bruce and Anthony Rizzo and Kris Bryant.

* Dustin Pedroia has now reached base safely in 32 straight games.

STARS

1) Rick Porcello

Porcello had his first complete game in a Red Sox uniform, stopping Boston’s losing skid at four games.

2) Xander Bogaerts

Bogaerts finished with a double and a home run -- the only Boston hitter with multiple hits. He also led the Red Sox with three RBI and scoring twice in the win.

3) Dustin Pedroia

In addition to walking in his first two at-bats, Pedroia had a base hit -- and another walk -- scoring twice on the night.

First impressions of the Red Sox' 6-2 win over the Angels

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First impressions of the Red Sox' 6-2 win over the Angels

First impressions of the Red Sox 6-2 win over Los Angeles:

Rick Porcello is not fazed by his fellow staff members’ struggles.

Although his teammates continue to deal with frustrations on almost a nightly basis, Porcello got the job done and put Boston in a position to win once again.

The second-inning double by Daniel Nava should have been a single, had Jackie Bradley Jr. not misplayed a funny hop. If that hit is a single, the next ground ball is a double -- and the following grounder ends the inning.

One of the most impressive components of his outing was dealing with Cole Kalhoun, Mike Trout and Albert Pujols to finish his outing after already facing them three times on the night.

Xander Bogaerts had his first multi-hit game in a week.

Which in the grand scheme of things isn’t a long time -- but that can feel like a long time given the shortstop’s output this year.

It was also his first multi extra-base hit performance since June 11.

Oddly enough, those are his only two games of that kind this season.

In addition to the win, Porcello did the bullpen a favor.

Not necessarily because the relievers needed rest, but with Ziegler’s last two rough nights, they could use a break.

Although Joe Kelly and Clay Buchholz got warm late, it was more so to keep them fresh for the coming games since they haven’t thrown much.

Additionally, he gave an example for the Red Sox starting rotation that they are in fact capable of going the distance.

Tim Lincecum is barely a shell of what he used to be.

That first inning was hard to watch. The former Cy Young Award-winner threw eight straight balls, and somehow managed to work past. Even his final throw to first base in he opening frame looked like it was going off the mark.

Just hard to watch in general, which made it all the more shocking that the Red Sox couldn’t score against him.

Good for them that he never adjusted, and they took advantage of it in the ensuing innings.