Celtics-Wizards preview: Time for Garnett to be aggressive

916859.jpg

Celtics-Wizards preview: Time for Garnett to be aggressive

BOSTON -- There is no player on the Boston Celtics roster that Doc Rivers seems to connect with more than Kevin Garnett. The frank nature of their communication, the mutual respect each man has for the other, has created a Teflon-like bond.

But there are times -- and we've seen quite a few of them in these first few games -- when Rivers wants his most unselfish player to be a little greedy. And Garnett, well versed on that sermon, usually responds with a strong performance.

The Celtics wouldn't mind getting one of those tonight as they host the Washington Wizards, a team they held on to beat 89-86 on Saturday.

Garnett comes into tonight's game averaging 13 points per game, the fewest he has averaged since his rookie season back in 1995. A lot of his lack of production scoring-wise stems from the fact that on too many occasions, the C's simply don't go to him. Garnett, ever the team player, rarely demands the ball despite Rivers' insistence that he demand the ball more.

"Doc Rivers is Doc Rivers, and Kevin Garnett is Kevin Garnett and I have to find a medium and a balance between that," Garnett said. "He's the captain. I listen to whatever he says. It's his ship. Within the flow of the offense, I pick and choose. I try to use my discretion and IQ to know when to be aggressive at times."

And you can bet tonight will be one of those times, especially after the Wizards made a point of going to Kevin Seraphin -- the man Garnett was guarding -- down the stretch in Saturday's loss.

During Washington's last gasp at stealing the victory, Garnett forced Seraphin into making a bad pass that sailed out of bounds, capping off a defensive stretch in which the C's kept Washington scoreless over the final 2:56.

A more assertive Garnett offensively will be a factor in tonight's outcome. Here are some other keys to tonight's game as the Celtics look to even up their overall record with what would be their first win at home this season.

WHAT TO LOOK FOR: Boston's first win of the season came on a night when they jumped on the opponent (Washington) with a 17-2 run behind suffocating defense and timely scoring. Being the aggressor at both ends of the floor will once again be a key to the C's beating the Wizards again.

MATCHUP TO WATCH: The Celtics bench vs. Jordan Crawford. Had it not been for an ankle injury early in the fourth quarter of Saturday's game, Crawford (21 points in 25 minutes) may have single-handedly outscored the entire C's bench. That should never happen. Jason Terry is more than due to have a breakout game. Ditto for Jeff Green.

PLAYER TO WATCH: Courtney Lee has been OK, but an intangibles player like him tends to have a breakout performance when you least expect it. With the Wizards wanting to limit Paul Pierce from having another big game, and hoping to withstand the strong play of Kevin Garnett and Rajon Rondo, it seems an ideal scenario for Lee to be an unexpected difference-maker.

STAT TO TRACK: Doc Rivers loves to keep the Celtics turnovers to 13 or less per game. In Saturday's win, the C's turned the ball over just nine times. That was a significant improvement compared to the first two games in which the Celtics turned it over an average of 17 times per game.

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.

Sullinger on Celtics: 'I watch from a distance, I support from a distance'

Sullinger on Celtics: 'I watch from a distance, I support from a distance'

BOSTON – The trip to the TD Garden is one that Jared Sullinger has made many times but never like this. 

The former Celtic was back in town with his new team, the Toronto Raptors who signed him to a one-year, $5.6 million deal after the Celtics rescinded their qualifying offer to him and thus made him an unrestricted free agent. 

MORE:

“I had a feeling it was going to go that way once they signed big Al (Horford), that they were going to let me go,” Sullinger said prior to Friday’s game.  “We were prepared for it. It is what it is. I’m happy these guys are doing well.”

And he hopes to say the same for himself sometime in the future after undergoing surgery to have a screw inserted in the fifth metatarsal of his left foot – the same foot he had season-ending surgery on during the 2014-2015 season with the Celtics. 

There’s no specific timetable as to when he’ll be back on the floor, and Sullinger is cool with that plan. 

“I don’t know. They’re hiding the protocol from me so I won’t rush; we’ll see,” said Sullinger who is still in a walking boot. 

The 6-foot-9 forward played well in the preseason and solidified himself as the team’s starting power forward. 

Now that he’s out with another injury, he’ll have to once again try and prove himself either later this season when he returns, or this summer when he becomes a free agent again.

For now, Sullinger is happy to be back in town, seeing lots of familiar faces, friends and ex-teammates that he says he still keeps in close contact with. 

“Some of these guys I considered like brothers to me,” Sullinger said. “IT (Isaiah Thomas), Jae Crowder to name a few. So I watch from a distance, I support from a distance. They’re playing well.”

In addition to his former teammates, the lines of communication remained open between him and Celtics head coach Brad Stevens as well. 

Stevens said the two exchanged text messages right before he had foot surgery, and afterwards. 

“Obviously, everyone here wishes a speedy recovery and hopefully he gets back on the court soon,” Stevens said. 

Sullinger has been an effective player during his time in the NBA, with career averages of 11.1 points and 7.7 rebounds per game. 

But this will be the third time in his five NBA seasons that he will miss a significant amount of time on the court due to an injury or recovering from an injury. 

Stevens acknowledged that he feels for Sullinger who once again has to go through rehabilitation in order to get back on the floor.

“I like Jared a lot,” Stevens said. “He’s a heck of a player, he’s a really smart guy. Got a lot of respect for him and it stinks that he’s got to go through that but he’ll come back strong I’m sure.”