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."

Syracuse uses late 99-yard drive to beat UConn, 31-24

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Syracuse uses late 99-yard drive to beat UConn, 31-24

EAST HARTFORD, Conn. - Syracuse receiver Amba Etta-Tawo is making the most of his final year of college eligibility.

The graduate transfer from Maryland caught 12 passes for a school-record 270 yards and two touchdowns and the Orange beat UConn 31-24 on Saturday to snap a two-game losing skid.

Etta-Tawo scored twice in the game's first five minutes on touchdown receptions of 57 and 30 yards. His 59-yard catch from the shadow of his team's goal line highlighted a 12-play 99-yard fourth-quarter drive that put the game away for the Orange (2-2).

It was his fourth straight game with at least 100 yards receiving.

"It goes back to chemistry with the quarterback and the coaches trusting me," Etta-Tawo said. "They trust that I'll make the plays and they keep on giving me opportunities to make the plays."

Syracuse quarterback Eric Dungey completed 26 of 40 passes for 407 yards and those two scores. He also scored on a 6-yard run to complete the length-of the field drive.

"We had to do it," said Etta-Tawo. "We had to drive down the field and try to put the game out, and that's exactly what we did. Everybody dug in, dug a little deeper."

Noel Thomas had 14 receptions for 111 yards for UConn (2-2). Huskies running back Arkeel Newsome ran for 81 yards and a touchdown.

It took Syracuse just 51 seconds on its first drive and 92 seconds on its second for Dungey and Etta-Tawo to make it 14-0. Etta-Tawo had five catches for 115 yards in the first quarter.

"I think he's already passed his previous career high as a collegian in the first four games with us, (more than) his whole entire career he had at the other school," coach Dino Babers said. "I think, if you asked him, I think he might have made a good choice (to transfer)."

The Huskies responded by scoring twice in the second quarter and for the second straight week, the Orange couldn't hold the early double-digit lead.

"We can't just go up 14-0, 17-0 in the beginning of the game and then put ourselves back in a dog fight," said linebacker Zaire Franklin, who was in on 14 tackles. "Some of these games we've got to have it over by the beginning of the second quarter."

Cordell Hudson pickup off a tipped pass from UConn quarterback Bryant Shirreffs and ran 22-yards down the left sideline for a touchdown that gave the Orange a 24-17 lead. It was just the second interception for the Orange this season.

The Huskies had a chance to tie the game in the fourth quarter after holder Tyler Davis, a former high school quarterback, hit tight end Tommy Myers with a 17-yard pass on a fake field goal to set the Huskies up at the Syracuse 8-yard line.

But Syracuse's defense held, and linebacker Franklin stopped Shirreffs on a fourth-and goal from the 2-yard line with just over 6 minutes left. The Orange marched the length of the field to put the game away.

"Going back, I would probably buy some more time and throw it to the back of the end zone," said Shirreffs, who threw a 24-yard touchdown to Davis with 33 seconds left to make the final score close. "I came up short. The linebacker made a good play and I didn't."