Celtics learning to thrive with Garnett on bench


Celtics learning to thrive with Garnett on bench

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."

Brady, Harbaugh found common ground on plane ride back from Michigan


Brady, Harbaugh found common ground on plane ride back from Michigan

FOXBORO -- What could have been an awkward plane ride for Tom Brady and John Harbaugh was made less so thanks to a high school lacrosse player. 

Brady and Harbaugh shared a private plane back from Michigan where Jim Harbaugh and his University of Michigan program put on an event for National Signing Day. About a year earlier, Brady told a room full of reporters that Harbaugh and his coaching staff should study the rule book and "figure it out" after hearing that they were pretty upset about the unusual formations the Patriots ran during their AFC Divisional Round win over Baltimore. 

They may not have been on the best of terms.

"I was pissed off," he told ESPN's Ian O'Connor before the start of this season. "It was uncalled for. And the rules are deeper than that, and I know the rules, and I stand by why that play shouldn't have been allowed. ... So yeah, that should never have been said."

But on the flight was Harbaugh's daughter Alison, a high school lacrosse player. When Brady took some time to share a few thoughts on competitiveness with her, he and Harbaugh found common ground.

"We had a lot of fun," Harbaugh said of the flight. "I don't know if he's talked about that at all, but we ended up sharing a plane ride along with my daughter and a couple of his people, friends of his. We just had a chance to just talk for a couple hours. And really more than anything, Alison got a chance to listen to Tom Brady talk about competing and what it takes to be great at what you do.

"And one of the funny things about it was, he was so nice to her. He gets off and they go, and we get back on the plane and we're talking, and she says something like, 'Boy, Tom really is a nice guy.' And I look at here and go, 'Tom?' I'm thinking 'Mr. Brady' would have been more appropriate. She said, 'He said to call me Tom.' I got a kick out of that.

"It was good. Lot of respect for him and a lot of respect for what he's accomplished. He's very tough to compete against. The best quarterback that's played, certainly in this era, without question in my mind. That's how I would rank him. And it's just another tough challenge to have to play against him."

Lowry, Sullinger and Blount interrupt interview with DeRozan

Lowry, Sullinger and Blount interrupt interview with DeRozan

DeMar DeRozan didn't get a chance to answer one question in his postgame interview before being interrupted by Kyle Lowry, Jared Sullinger, and LeGarrette Blount.