Stars, studs and duds: Garnett’s presence remains alive in Celtics locker room

Stars, studs and duds: Garnett’s presence remains alive in Celtics locker room

CHICAGO – Even though he hasn’t played a minute for the Boston Celtics in four years, Kevin Garnett’s presence remains alive and well in the Boston Celtics’ locker room.
 
A taped message left by Garnett with a Celtics staff member to share with some of the players, was soon passed along to the entire team.
 
And it would serve as one of the many motivations Boston had heading into a must-win Game 3 matchup that ended with the Celtics pulling away for a 104-87 victory.

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The Celtics now trail the best-of-seven 2-1 with Game 4 at the United Center on Sunday.
 
As much as the talk after the game centered around Boston getting its first win in the series, Garnett’s message which had a few – OK, more than a few – expletives in was viewed as one of the keys to Boston getting a much-needed win.
 
“To me personally, it was everything,” said Boston’s Jae Crowder. “It was just a little motivational speech. We looked like a team that wasn’t having fun; a team that was sulking in the moment. Just have to play for one another, play for the moment … and have fun with it. That’s what he was saying, with a little more KG into it.”
 
The message hit home in a big way for the Celtics, as player after player talked about how “pumped” up Garnett’s words made them feel before the game.
 
“Oh man, that was exciting,” said Boston’s Terry Rozier. “That got the whole team pumped. That was great hearing from a legend that played for this organization, been through it all, got to the Finals, won the Finals. Just to hear that inspiration from him was good, especially going into an important game like this.”
 
It showed in the early moments as Boston raced out to a 14-4 lead to start the game, and led by as many as 20 points in the first half.
 
Avery Bradley is the only Celtic on the roster who played with Garnett when he was in Boston, so the message really hit home with him.
 
“It almost felt like he was in the locker room with me again,” Bradley said. “It was a good feeling.”
 
 I asked Bradley did the message have any curse words.
 
“Of course,” said Bradley, grinning. “Of course; same KG but it got us going.”
 
Here are the Stars, Studs and Duds from Game 3 between Boston and Chicago.

STARS
 
Al Horford

The stat line for Horford doesn’t look all that different than other games we’ve seen from him, but make no mistake about it. This was Horford’s best game as a Celtic, not only because of his numbers but because of his overall impact at both ends of the floor in what was an absolute must-win matchup if Boston were to have any shot at rallying back in this series. He finished with 18 points on 8-for-14 shooting with eight rebounds, six assists, four steals and a blocked shot.
 
Dwyane Wade

The Bulls were searching for a spark all game, and Wade came as close as anyone to providing what they needed. He led the Bulls with 18 points but did so on a not-so-efficient 6-for-18 shooting.
 

STUDS
 
Avery Bradley

This was easily Bradley’s most complete game in the postseason thus far. He had 15 points on 5-for-10 shooting with seven rebounds, seven assists and two steals all the while playing a key role as one of the many defenders Boston used to limit the scoring of Chicago’s Jimmy Butler.
 
Terry Rozier

After an up and down regular season, Rozier was very much a difference-maker for the Celtics off the bench in Game 3. He led Boston’s second unit scoring with 11 points on 4-for-6 shooting with three rebounds and a steal. And just as significant, Boston was a +19 in the 23 minutes, 18 seconds he played.
 
Robin Lopez

He wasn’t as dominant in Game 3 as we saw in Games 1 and 2, but Lopez was nonetheless effective when he was on the floor. He finished with 12 points on 5-for-7 shooting with six rebounds.
 

DUDS
 
Jimmy Butler

At no point did it seem Butler was going to lead the Bulls back into the game. Boston’s perimeter defenders absolutely dogged him all game, limiting the usually high-scoring Butler to just 14 points on 14-for-21 shooting. The most telling stat about his game? The Bulls were a minus-27 when he was on the floor.

Avery Bradley says Kevin Garnett helped pump up Celtics before Game 3

Avery Bradley says Kevin Garnett helped pump up Celtics before Game 3

Kevin Garnett didn't need to be in the Boston Celtics' locker room to provide inspiration.

His words pumped up the Celtics before Game 3, Avery Bradley explained. Garnett left a message on trainer Ed Lacerte's voicemail, which Isaiah Thomas played on his portable speakers, according to Yahoo.com's Chris Mannix.

"Isaiah played a clip from KG before the game, and it kind of got us going a little bit," Bradley told ESPN on the sideline Friday after the Celtics' 104-87 win over the Chicago Bulls Friday. "KG said some inspirational words for us, and it reminded us -- Celtics, we're always supposed to be the hardest playing team every single night. And we're supposed to use Isaiah's family -- use that as inspiration and come out and play hard for him and his family. And that's what we did tonight."

Garnett may not have been pleased with the Celtics' rebounding. Again, they got crushed on the boards in Game 3 with 37 rebounds compared to the Bulls' 52.

But after the Celtics struggled to support Thomas on offense for the first two games, a gang of Celtics pitched in during Game 3 in a well-rounded scoring effort. Thomas, whose sister died in a car crash last weekend, finished the game with 16 points, nine assists, two rebounds and a steal. Bradley added 15 points, seven rebounds, seven assists and two steals. Al Horford had 18 points, eight rebounds and six assists. Jae Crowder had 16 points and six rebounds. Even Terry Rozier had double digit points with 11, aided by his three 3-pointers.

Celtics missing open shots to take down Bulls

Celtics missing open shots to take down Bulls

CHICAGO -- You hear players and coaches in the NBA talk all the time about this being a make-miss league.
 
Looking at where this first-round series between Boston and Chicago is, without question the Bulls’ ability to make shots has been the difference.
 
Boston, which trails Chicago 2-0 in the best-of-seven series, has shot 44.6 percent from the field in the first two games compared to the Bulls’ 46.9.
 
But there are a number of contributing factors that have contributed to this unexpected role reversal of sorts when it comes to shot-making.
 
One of the more notable differences?
 
Screening.
 
Chicago has done a significantly better job at freeing up its shooters with screens at various points on the floor, which is in stark contrast to how the Celtics fared against most opponents during the regular season in that category.
 
During the regular season, Boston had 156 more screened assists than the Bulls. But after the first two games of this series Chicago has a 30-20 advantage in screen assists, led by Robin Lopez who has 10.
 
And while there have been questions raised as to what role coach Brad Stevens has played in the team’s struggles in the first two games, the statistics show that a lot of Boston’s troubles offensively stem from the players simply not executing when in position to do so.
 
In Boston’s 111-97 Game 2 loss, Boston shot 46.3 percent from the field, converting 38-of-82 shot attempts.
 
Of those 82 field-goal attempts, exactly half of them (41) were uncontested shots.
 
According to NBA statistics guru Dick Lipe, the Celtics shot just 16-of-41 on those uncontested shots, or 39.0 percent.
 
The Celtic player who stood out for all the wrong reasons along these lines in Game 2 was Avery Bradley who missed 8 of his 11 uncontested shots.
 
Meanwhile, the Bulls were 27-for-43 on uncontested shots, or 62.8 percent.
 
And among the Chicago players who saw at least 10 minutes of action in Game 2, only one of them (Jimmy Butler, 3-for-7) shot less than 50 percent on uncontested shots.
 
So as much as the narrative thus far focused on Boston’s poor rebounding, the Celtics clearly need to do a better job of making open shots -- something that as much as any one factor, has contributed to them being in this 2-0 series deficit.