Garnett gets better of Love

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Garnett gets better of Love

MINNEAPOLIS Kevin Garnett is pretty fired up all the time. So the idea of him being even more amped up than usual, is a little scary.

But consider this:

He was returning to where he spent more than a decade as the face of Minnesota Timberwolves basketball.

Garnett would be matched up against Kevin Love, who has been getting lots of attention and praise of late for putting up ridiculous numbers scoring and rebounding.

Sprinkle in the fact that Boston needs every win it can get to keep moving up the playoff seeding charts, and it adds up to a motivated - very motivated - Kevin Garnett.

And that motivation was more than enough for Boston to continue on its winning ways with a 100-79 victory over Minnesota, his former team.

Boston's defense was stifling for most of the night, with Garnett leading the charge.

Garnett also got it done offensively, scoring a game-high 24 points to go with 10 rebounds for his team-leading 17th double-double.

He was especially clutch in the fourth, scoring back-to-back baskets after Minnesota cut Boston's lead to 10 points.

"It was just a situation where I know Kevin (Love) doesn't play a lot of defense," Garnett said. "He does get a lot of rebounds and shoots a lot of threes. I felt like I had the advantage and I took it. It wasn't nothing more than that."

Even if he was more pumped up than usual, "he won't tell you that either way," said C's coach Doc Rivers. "You know that. But I think everyone's up when they come back. And I think the other guy is up when the last guy, comes in."

On Wednesday, Garnett faced a Utah Jazz team that featured former Celtic Al Jefferson, who was part of the trade that brought Garnett to Boston and sent Jefferson to Minnesota. The C's beat the Jazz by 12 points and Jefferson - like Love on Friday - had a less-than-stellar performance against a motivated Garnett.

"I think KG took it personal tonight," said Timberwolves forward Anthony Tolliver. "I'm sure he's been hearing a lot of stuff that Love is the best power forward in the league and everything else. One night doesn't change it, but he's a competitor and we knew he (Garnett) was going to come in here and bring it straight to Kevin (Love). He (Garnett) had a great game. He's a veteran; he knows what to do and how to win. He looked like his old self tonight."

Said Garnett: "If you know anything about me, I was more than ready and prepared tonight."

And with Garnett having won the head-to-head matchup with Love and the C's getting the win, this will likely slow down some of the comparisons that have been made between the two.

"My time has passed (as the face of Timberwolves basketball)," Garnett said. "It's Kevin Love's time, and I understand that."

That maybe so.

But it can't change the fact that as good as Love is now, Garnett is still widely viewed as the greatest player in franchise history.

"He (Garnett) was the face of the franchise, and I think always will be," Garnett's former coach in Minnesota, Flip Saunders, told CSNNE.com. "Any time you talk about Minnesota, KG and Minnesota pretty much go hand-in-hand."

Patriots pregame rituals: Step-by-step with the players on game day

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Patriots pregame rituals: Step-by-step with the players on game day

What goes through Dont'a Hightower’s mind in the minutes before he takes the field and lowers himself into a cauldron of collisions, pain and exultation?

Not a thing.

“I rest. I literally rest,” said the Patriots Pro Bowl inside linebacker. “I don’t do anything else. I sit at my locker, I don’t listen to music. I don’t do anything out of the ordinary. I don’t look at film, I don’t look at notes. I’m just relaxed. Calm before the storm. I’ve done enough preparing, I’ve done enough notes, I’ve done enough of that stuff during the week. If I don’t know it by now, I don’t know it. It’s not gonna help me last minute. It’s only gonna make me play slower.”

By the time an NFL team hits the field – in the Patriots case, runs out of a giant, inflatable helmet while Ozzy Osbourne’s “Crazy Train” blares – they are primped, polished, taped and glistening.

But what is their day like leading up to that? I asked a few Patriots to take me through their game-day prep from wakeup to anthem to give me insight into what we don’t see.  

You can hear Hightower, Nate Solder, Alan Branch, Devin McCourty and Rob Ninkovich detail the steps they take to get game-ready. French toast is involved. So are naps. And sock preparation.

It all builds to that moment of theater that Ninkovich says is what players truly miss when they leave the game – that feeling of euphoria.

“When we finally get to run out, that’s the most exciting time in the world,” says Solder. “The crowd wasn’t there earlier when we went out there and all of a sudden, the crowd is there. Very exciting, very fun, especially with the guys you work so hard with.”

Says McCourty, “I always think when I run out of the tunnel to look up and say, ‘Thank you’ just to be able to play.”

Listen to them tell their stories here:

Just Belichick being Belichick at Friday presser

Just Belichick being Belichick at Friday presser

On Wednesday, the Patriots media room was festooned with AFC Championship Game adornments. A big red backdrop behind the podium, Patriots and Steelers helmets arranged on a table facing each other with the Lamar Hunt AFC Champion Trophy in the middle. 

Bill Belichick, who's not big on festoons, noted the helmets during his press conference and deadpanned, "So exciting...". That clip got some run. 

On Friday, when asked to recall his first Conference Championship as a coach, he mentioned the 2001 AFC Championship Game in Pittsburgh and the fact that Belichick, Lawyer Milloy and Tom Brady were all required to fly to Pittsburgh on the Friday before the game to do media duties. 

"That was awesome," Belichick snarked. Then, looking to the area where the display was on Wednesday, Belichick smiled and said, "Where's all the stuff from Wednesday? Did it get thrown out?"

He is the turd in the NFL's punch bowl and it's endlessly amusing.