Celtics learning to thrive with Garnett on bench

Celtics learning to thrive with Garnett on bench
January 6, 2013, 9:19 pm
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ATLANTA Usually around the seven minute mark of the first quarter, Doc Rivers gets that funny feeling in the pit of his stomach.

It is at that moment when he remembers that he's going to take Kevin Garnett out to get him some rest.

"We started out great and you think, 'Oh gosh, here comes the 7:30 on the clock' because that's when I (usually) take him out," said Doc Rivers, who actually gave Garnett an extra minute of action in the first quarter on Saturday.

While Garnett recharges on the sideline, that's typically when the Celtics begin to start reeling.

But in these last two defensive-inspired games -- both Celtics wins -- Boston seems to have managed to figure not just how to survive when Garnett goes to the bench, but also how to flourish in his absence.

That certainly was the case on Saturday night when the C's rallied for an 89-81 win at Atlanta after falling behind by as many as 19 points in the first half.

Boston's 33-9 dominance in the third quarter was a huge factor in the win. Even more impressive was the fact that the bulk of that spurt came with Garnett watching from the bench.

In that decisive third quarter, the Celtics were plus-10 when Garnett was on the floor. When he left, the C's were a surprisingly plus-14 without him.

Boston had similar success in their blowout win over Indiana on Friday, with the C's being plus-6 with Garnett in the game and the plus-minus being even better when his backups got court time. Jared Sullinger and Jason Collins, the two primary bigs off the Celtics bench, were plus-17 and plus-15, respectively, against the Pacers.

Garnett is well aware of the team's struggles during those moments when he's off the floor.

"Improvement from a team perspective is huge," Garnett said. "It doesn't matter who is on the floor. We have to be able to play without guys. Things happen in the league where you have suspensions, injuries, family issues, whatever. We all have to be able to have a system that runs no matter who is in it."

The success of the Celtics' second unit of bigs isn't necessarily an Xs and Os thing.

"Just play hard," says Boston's Jared Sullinger in describing what has worked lately for him and the Celtics big men. "We do that and do it consistently, everything will work out."

Added Garnett: "A lot of the things we do here involve hard work and commitment. That's all on personnel, that's all on individuals to buy in and come together and be a team. That's all it is."