Celtics-Kings review: Garnett steps up

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Celtics-Kings review: Garnett steps up

BOSTON Courtney Lee was joking around before the game that fans just might see Kevin Garnett running the point.
He was kidding of course, but there's no mistaking that Garnett was a central figure in initiating the C's offense that was humming like we have rarely seen this season against Sacramento.
And the result was an impressive 99-81 win over the Kings for the C's second straight victory -- both without Rajon Rondo, who is out for the rest of the season with a torn right ACL injury.
Garnett was able to deliver the C's a little bit of everything.
He had 13 points on 6-for-10 shooting.
He grabbed nine rebounds.
He had five assists, and that doesn't include the "hockey" assists on passes he made that set up passes for lay-ups or wide-open jumpers.
"Everybody has to do their job, and some have to do it better," said Celtics head coach Doc Rivers. "Kevin I thought tonight was terrific."
Boston went to Garnett early, something that Paul Pierce said will likely happen more often with Rondo out.
"You saw that from the start, we went to him, we went to him again ... we steadily went to him and he makes things easier."
Garnett understands that while several Celtics have to step their game up, often he will be looked upon to set things into motion.
"Doc wants to kind of cement me into the first five minutes of the game. That's cool," Garnett said. "I like to do things into the flow. Obviously plays were called, I was aggressive, I made shots. More importantly, I want to be in situations where I can not only get shots but be aggressive, get other shots, make the game easier for everybody on the floor. As long as I am in those situations, I think I can obviously help my team."
Garnett's play was indeed one of the keys to Boston coming away with the win.
Here are some of other keys outlined prior to tip-off, and how those keys actually played out as the Celtics (22-23) win their second straight game.

WHAT TO LOOK FOR: Limiting the backcourt scoring of the Kings will be a factor. Despite losing four of their last five games, Sacramento's perimeter players have been putting up big numbers. In the last five games, they have averaged 46.2 points per game which ranks eighth in the NBA during that span according to hoopsstats.com.
WHAT WE SAW: Boston's two-headed defensive monster in the backcourt, Avery Bradley and Courtney Lee, limited Sacramento's tandem of Tyreke Evans and Isaiah Thomas to 27 points on 9-for-29 shooting.

MATCHUP TO WATCH: Jared Sullinger vs DeMarcus Cousins: Two of the league's up-and-coming young bigs, both have the ability to impact the game in multiple ways. Sullinger did a solid job as a role player in Boston's double overtime win against Miami. Cousins' first career triple-double came against the C's earlier this season.
WHAT WE SAW: This matchup never materialized as Sullinger left the game in the first quarter with back spasms and was unable to return. Cousins didn't fare much better in his time on the floor, tallying 13 points, 6 rebounds and 4 assists - a far cry from the triple-double he put on Boston when they met earlier this season.

PLAYER TO WATCH: Courtney Lee gets the start in the backcourt, and will look to continue his solid play with Rajon Rondo (torn right ACL) out for the season. In six games without Rondo this season, Lee averages 10.5 points, 4.3 rebounds and 2.3 assists - all better than his season numbers.
WHAT WE SAW: Lee showed a lot more athleticism than we have seen thus far this season. His final line for the night - 9 points, 3-for-6 shooting and three assists - doesn't do justice to the kind of game he had in helping the Celtics come away with the win.

STAT TO TRACK: Even without Rondo, the Celtics need to make getting out in transition a priority. Sacramento has struggled in several phases of the game all season, including their transition defense which is giving up 15.6 points per game which ranks 29th (out of 30 teams) in the NBA this season. That number has been slightly higher (16.4) in their last five games.
WHAT WE SAW: Four of Boston's first six points of the game came on fast-breaks, as they finished with 14 fast-break points for the game. The C's were doing such a solid job executing in half-court sets, their ability to score a ton of points in transition was not needed.

Horford believes Celtics give him best chance at 'ultimate goal' of NBA Championship

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Horford believes Celtics give him best chance at 'ultimate goal' of NBA Championship

WALTHAM, Mass. -- Pinpointing the exact moment Al Horford made up his mind to become a Boston Celtics isn’t clear, but the seeds of that decision can be traced back to last year’s playoffs – and no we’re not talking about the playoff series between Boston and Atlanta, either.
 
It was the Hawk’s second-round playoff series back in May against Cleveland, a team that swept them out of the Conference finals in 2015 and did so again last about five months ago.
 
Horford had every intention of returning to Atlanta, but as the free agency period wore on two things became quite clear: Winning an NBA title would have to go through Cleveland and it happening with him in Atlanta was becoming more and more unlikely.
 
In came the Celtics with a pitch that was heavy on present-day and down-the-road potential that wouldn’t require him to do anything other than continue to play the way he has for the past nine seasons.
 
“It (becoming a Celtic) became real for me real late and real quick,” Horford told CSNNE.com on Wednesday.
 
After mulling it over for a couple days, Horford said he was ready to become a Celtic.
 
“This could be a great opportunity even though I’m leaving a lot behind,” Horford said.
 
As you listen to Horford speak, it’s clear that the Celtics mystique played a role in his decision to sign with Boston.

 But as much as the Celtics’ lore and its on-the-rise status helped, there were certain events that Boston had no control over that actually helped their cause.
 
First the Hawks got in on a three-team trade in June with Utah and Indiana which sent Hawks All-Star point guard Jeff Teague to the Pacers while Atlanta received Utah’s first-round pick which was 12th overall and was used by Atlanta to select Baylor’s Taurean Prince. The move allowed Atlanta’s Dennis Schroeder to slide over into the now-vacant starting point guard position.
 
While it may help Atlanta down the road, it did little to move them closer towards knocking off Cleveland anytime soon.
 
And then there was the Hawks coming to terms on a three-year, $70.5 million deal with Dwight Howard early in the free agency period. That deal coupled with Atlanta’s desire to bring Kent Bazemore back, cast serious doubt as to whether Horford would return.
 
Horford, who inked a four-year, $113 million deal with Boston, told CSNNE.com that at the time of Atlanta’s deal with Howard, he was still open to the idea of returning.
 
But if Horford did, he knew figuring out the best way to play him, Howard and Paul Millsap who by the way has a player option that he’s likely to exercise which would make him a free agent next summer, was not going to be easy.

“It was definitely going to be different,” Horford said, then adding, “For me, the Celtics were becoming more and more a realistic option. After talking with my family, we felt this was the best for me.”
 
And while it’s still very early in his tenure as a Celtic, Horford has no regrets or second thoughts about his decision.
 
“As a player you always want to be in the best position you can,” Horford said. “I felt for me being on this team would put me in a position to be able to contend and win an NBA championship. That’s my ultimate goal.”
 
And that alone makes him a good fit with this franchise which from ownership to the front office to the coaching staff and of course the players, are all focused on one thing and that’s bringing home Banner 18.
 
 “Look at the resume. He’s been a winner wherever he’s played,” said Boston’s Amir Johnson. “It’s good to have a guy like that, with his talent and with his winning, playing next to you.”