BOSTON Kevin Garnett is pretty self-motivated, but any edge he can find in that category he will greatly accept.
He found one heading into Thursday's Game 6 matchup with the Atlanta Hawks, a game in which one of the Hawks co-owners, Michael Gearon, Jr., delivered just the kind of verbal ammo that has a tendency to charge up the NBA veteran.
Thursday's game was no exception, as Garnett tallied 28 points and 14 rebounds in leading the C's to an 83-80 game.
Boston had squandered a nine-point lead in the fourth, ultimately falling behind before - who else? - Garnett came to the rescue with a 13-footer in the lane with 30 seconds to play.
The C's never trailed afterward.
And while there were plenty of folks Garnett could have thanked for Thursday's win, there was only one person on his mind initially - Hawks co-owner Michael Gearon Jr. who made a number of disparaging comments about Garnett, including that all-time classic that you hear time and time again - he's a dirty player.
"First off, I want to say thank you to their owner for giving me some extra gas tonight," Garnett said. "My only advice to him is next time he opens his mouth, actually know what he's talking about.
Garnett added, "we're not dirty; we're firm, we play aggressive. We're not dirty. Ya know you have to understand the word dirty in this game is very defined. Going under guys, trying to hurt guys, ill intent, it's not the way we play basketball. I just found that comment to be a little rude and a little out of hand and I wanted to address it. Just because you got a bunch of money don't mean you can open your mouth."
Gearon's comments made the rounds in the C's locker room, with a number of players well aware that such talk can only help the Celtics.
"From the All-Star break, there hasn't been any young player at the 4 (power forward) or 5 (center) position that's been better than him," said Celtics guard Keyon Dooling. "I guess he's putting to rest, 'he's got older legs.' He's not aging, he's aged."
While there's no question Gearon's comments were a factor in Garnett's monster game, teammates understand that's not the only thing that drives him.
"His motivation is all about winning," Pietrus said. "He's dedicated to win. That's why one brain fits all the brains in this locker room. That's why I love KG; we love KG. Even in practice, he comes to practice everyday I understand every player wants to be a Kobe or a LeBron, but watch KG, you're going to learn from him."
His teammates learn about his work ethic and commitment to his craft, which is to be the best basketball player, the best teammate he can possibly be.
For those on the outside like Hawks co-owner Michael Gearson Jr., you learn that the soon-to-be-36 year old Garnett still has a lot of basketball left in him.
And if that's questioned, Garnett will respond in a way that serves as a reminder of sorts that when properly motivated (like calling him old, washed up or a dirty player), he can still dominate games in a way so few players in the league can do now.