Garnett: 'It don't take much to motivate me'

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Garnett: 'It don't take much to motivate me'

BOSTON For once, Kevin Garnett failed.

He tried his best to mask the fact that facing Utah's Al Jefferson -- the other central piece in the 2007 trade that got him out of Minnesota and the C's Banner 17 -- was just another game against a young, promising big man.

But when he was asked about added motivation facing Jefferson, Garnett responded, "I wasn't motivated" which was soon followed by an ear-to-ear Garnett grin.

"Next question," he said.

Garnett's play in Boston's 94-82 win left no question that the demise of Kevin Garnett has been greatly, greatly exaggerated.

He turned in yet another stellar performance on Wednesday with a game-high 23 points along with 10 rebounds for his 16th double-double this season -- tops among Celtics players.

It was the kind of performance that is becoming more and more common with Garnett who is playing at a level few expected from him at this point in his career.

"I'm motivated," said Garnett, who will be 36 in May. "I hear y'all calling me old. I hear y'all calling me older, weathered. It don't really take much to motivate me. I'm older in basketball years, but in life I'm 30-something."

With age comes experience and the understanding that on many nights Garnett will play the kind of mind games that often frustrates his younger basketball brethren.

That certainly was the case on Wednesday with Al Jefferson, who had 18 points, but needed 19 shots (he only made seven) to get it. Jefferson's frustration boiled over into the fourth quarter when Garnett's play resulted in Jefferson losing his cool.

The result?

A double technical foul against Jefferson and Garnett.

"One of his Jedi mind tricks worked tonight," said Celtics guard Keyon Dooling. "A lot of times people focus more on antics, and lose sight of a particular possession in the game. His Jedi mind trick worked tonight."

C's coach Doc Rivers knows Garnett's intensity is omnipresent whenever the C's play. But against Jefferson ... Rivers isn't buying it was just another matchup for Garnett, either.

"They clearly have something," Rivers said. "That's how it always is. Al was traded from here and Kevin is here so that will always last. It's good though, it was fun as long as we won."

Although Garnett would not single out Jefferson, there is no doubt that he finds added motivation in ways that go beyond simply wanting to win.

"I don't watch too many of you guy's interviews -- garbage -- but the ones I do catch, it's an opinion and it is what it is, but it puts a spark under me and I like that," Garnett said. "Playing against younger talent that's supposed to be prolific and supposed to be above-average ... but I'm old though, you know? And again, for the third time, it don't take much to motivate me."

Jefferson chalks up Wednesday's game as "Kevin being Kevin."

"It's just him. But I got mad respect for Kevin, great player. He made a way for me, being drafted out of high school, that's all I have to say about that."

Part of Garnett's motivation is internally finding ways to improve his game.

Following the team's loss at Oklahoma City prior to the all-star break, Garnett addressed the team and essentially said every man needs to examine himself and come back ready to play better; otherwise, stay away.

He was speaking to his teammates, but he might as well been talking in the mirror.

Garnett was playing decent basketball before the break, but he knew he too could play better.

"I've been giving myself a true analysis in the mirror, been looking at myself, telling myself, 'what can I do better?'" Garnett said. "I've been going towards that. I know there are some things that I can get better at, and I've been trying to do that."

Garnett has been arguably Boston's most consistent player this season, and has been instrumental in Boston having the third-best record (13-5) since the All-Star break.

"Kevin's been amazing," Rivers said. "I was joking but it's true, but if you had an All-Star vote at the center spot in the league right now, he'd be right up there because that's what he's been since the break. He's a 5 (center) and he's been terrific."

In the 18 games since the break, Garnett is averaging 17.3 points and 8.5 rebounds while shooting 52.4 percent from the field.

Of course part of Garnett's improved scoring has to do with a slight change made by Rivers which has not only helped Garnett offensively, but Rivers believes it has also helped the C's cut down on turnovers.

"The only big we throw it to is Kevin, above the elbow; basically it's that simple," Rivers said. "Before we were running all the elbow offense, but it was any big and we realized that maybe Kevin should be the only (big man) ball-handler above the circle."

But ultimately his success of late -- and that of the C's -- comes down to him not just speaking about improving play, but living it.

"I can't ask a teammate to do something, and look at himself if I'm not looking at myself; that's just me," Garnett said. "When it comes to basketball, you gotta put in your time, you gotta put in your work. You gotta not just talk that talk, but you gotta be able to walk. I'm here. I'm dealing with everything ... but I'm here."

Kevin Durant's future a mystery as OKC collapses

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Kevin Durant's future a mystery as OKC collapses

OAKLAND, Calif. - As Stephen Curry dribbled out the clock in a raucous Oracle Arena, Kevin Durant could only stand and watch.

The Golden State Warriors are heading back to the NBA Finals, while Durant's future in Oklahoma City is much less certain.

Two nights after blowing an opportunity to close out the defending champion Warriors at home, the Thunder got sent home for the summer when they lost Game 7 of the Western Conference finals 96-88 on Monday night.

Instead of becoming known as the team that knocked off the Warriors after their record-setting 73-win regular season, the Thunder will be remembered for a playoff collapse. They became just the 10th NBA team to lose a playoff series after taking a 3-1 lead and now head into an uncertain offseason with Durant eligible to become an unrestricted free agent in July.

If he does leave the only franchise he has played for in his nine-year career, he will do it having failed to deliver the championship to Oklahoma City. The closest the Thunder have gotten in Durant's tenure was when they lost the NBA Finals in five games to LeBron James and the Miami Heat in 2012.

They then lost in the second round the next season, in the conference finals in 2014 to San Antonio before missing the playoffs entirely because of an injury to Durant last year.

But under first-year coach Billy Donovan, Oklahoma City earned the third seed in the top-heavy Western Conference this season and then upset 67-win San Antonio in the second round. The Thunder followed that by winning three of the first four games against the Warriors, with a pair of lopsided wins at home.

But after losing Game 5 on the road, the Thunder blew an opportunity to eliminate the Warriors at home on Saturday night. Oklahoma City led by seven points with less than five minutes remaining but made only one basket and committed six turnovers down the stretch of a 108-101 loss that could haunt the franchise for years.

The Thunder responded on the road in Game 7 by taking a 13-point lead in the second quarter. But once Curry and Klay Thompson started hitting Oklahoma City with a flurry of 3-pointers, the Thunder had no answer. The Splash Brothers combined for 13 3-pointers as Golden State outscored Oklahoma City by 30 points from behind the line.

Oklahoma City's stars were no match. Russell Westbrook missed 14 of 21 from the field and shot just 36.8 percent in the three potential clinchers. Durant finished with 27 points but took only 10 shots in the first three quarters.

Durant did score seven straight points to cut an 11-point deficit to four with 1:40 remaining. But Serge Ibaka then fouled Curry on a 3-pointer with the shot clock running down, allowing Golden State to build the lead back to seven.

Durant then missed two shots and could only stare blankly when Curry ended Oklahoma City's season with a 3-pointer with 26.8 seconds left. Now the Thunder can only hope it doesn't end Durant's tenure in Oklahoma City as well.