CLEVELAND The Boston Celtics were as undermanned as we've seen them all season in a 15-point loss at Oklahoma City to close out the pre-All Star break portion of their schedule.
No Jermaine O'Neal (wrist). No Brandon Bass (left knee). No Chris Wilcox (groin)
But Kevin Garnett, one of only three bigs (Greg Stiemsma and JaJuan Johnson were the two others) still left, didn't care.
Explanations are one thing; excuses, another.
And the C's, as long as he's been with the franchise, were not about making excuses.
So before the team would venture off into the abyss that we know of as All-Star weekend, Garnett held an impromptu team meeting with a clear and very succinct Garnett-esque message.
If you're not ready to step your game up the second half of the season, step aside and don't come back because he doesn't want you and the Celtics don't need you.
Keyon Dooling, who like a number of Celtics has missed games due to injuries, felt Garnett's message could not have come at a better time.
The Celtics (15-17) had lost their fifth straight, and Garnett could sense that coddling - not exactly a strength of his, anyway - was not needed.
He spoke the way he plays; in a strong, but firm and consistent tone.
"We understand what's at stake," Dooling told CSNNE.com. "We have to start, here and now."
The Celtics are looking to reverse their losing ways, beginning on Wednesday against a Cleveland team that's just 1.5 games behind them for the No. 8 and final playoff spot.
"They're playing great," said Celtics coach Doc Rivers. "Kyrie Irving has put an entire franchise on his back in some ways, and has proven his pick was a pretty good pick."
Irving, the No. 1 overall pick in last June's NBA draft, was named MVP of the Rising Stars competition during all-star weekend that featured the top rookies and second-year players. It was a fitting award considering he's the odds-on favorite now to win the league's rookie of the Year award.
Rivers acknowledged a number of Cavaliers players in addition to Irving, are playing well.
"But I don't worry about that, I worry about us," Rivers said. "If we play well, everything will take care of itself. If we don't, it won't."
And if the C's don't play well, you can rest assured it won't have anything to do with a lack of leadership on the part of Garnett.
"Yeah, Kevin doesn't say much in the sense of being vocal," Dooling said. "He usually lets his play do the talking, and he always does. But it was perfect timing; every time he says something, he has the respect of our guys and it's always good to hear him get in our ears a little bit."