Garnett responds to Hawks owner on and off court

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Garnett responds to Hawks owner on and off court

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.

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Celtics-Magic preview: Orlando's poor offense gives C's chance to bounce back

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Celtics-Magic preview: Orlando's poor offense gives C's chance to bounce back

Talk about your basketball extremes.

After losing a 107-106 heartbreaker to Houston and their high-powered offense on Monday, the Boston Celtics will be in for a very different -- and less successful -- foe tonight in the Orlando Magic.

The Magic beat Washington 124-116 on Tuesday night despite John Wall’s 52-point effort, but have been one of the NBA’s most offensively challenged teams this season.

Orlando ranks near the bottom in scoring (29th, 94.6 points per game), field goal percentage (28th, .426) and Pace (24th, 96.71) this season.

But Frank Vogel’s crew has been a defensive force thus far in the East even if their record might suggest otherwise.

They rank among the league’s best in several defensive categories such as scoring defense (4th, 98.0 points per game allowed); opponent 3-point percentage (3rd, 33.0 percent), opponent 3-point attempts (4th, 23.6) in addition to allowing a league-low 8.0 made 3's per game.

That will be a stark contrast from the let-it-fly-all-night style Boston had to contend with against the high-scoring Rockets on Monday.

But this set of games is exactly why Celtics president of basketball operations Danny Ainge made of point of trying to put together a roster that was heavy on athleticism and versatility both in the frontcourt as well as on the perimeter.

Against Houston, Tyler Zeller recorded his first DNP-CD (Did not play -- coaches decision) of the season which made sense considering Houston basically plays void of a traditional center.

Orlando, that’s a different story.

Serge Ibaka, Bismack Biyombo and Nikola Vucevic now coming off the bench form a physical triumvirate of big men that can cause lots of problems for a Celtics team that will look to attack the paint often.

When it comes to scoring in the restricted area, the Magic allow opponents to shoot 57.6 percent which ranks seventh in the league. They rank highly when it comes to defending mid-range shots (5-10th, 38.3 percent), corner 3's (6th, 34.5 percent) and above-the-break 3's (8th, 33.8 percent) as well.

And while they have had their issues offensively this season, their recent run of success has been in part aided by a much-improved offensive showing. In their last five games, they are shooting 48.5 percent from the field which ranks fifth in the NBA in that span. For the season, the Magic rank 28th while connecting on 42.6 percent of their shots.

Orlando’s improved shooting with a defense that’s stingy as ever, will make this a tough game for Boston to come away with a victory.

Just as the Magic seek to continue their successful ways, the Celtics come into this game with something to prove as well.

While the missed lay-ups by Al Horford and Isaiah Thomas in the final minute of Monday’s 107-106 loss certainly were factors in the game’s outcome, there were a series of miscommunications earlier in the quarter that fueled Houston’s late surge.

Following the game, Isaiah Thomas pointed out how he called out a play that Jonas Jerebko interpreted as another play the Celtics called.

The miscommunication led to a turnover and subsequent lay-up which in hindsight looms huge considering the margin of victory was just one point.

“The two play calls sound alike,” Thomas told reporters afterwards. “In the heat of battle, I have to do a better job of making sure everybody knows what play we’re running. He (Jerebko) handed the ball back to me when the play wasn’t to hand the ball back to me. That was one of the turnovers that was the key.

Thomas added, “It’s not his fault. As a group, as a point guard, I have to do a better job of letting my guys know what play we’re running. Those little things, especially on the road, those make you lose games. But that wasn’t the play that made us lose. I’m not putting this on Jonas at all.”

Indeed, this team’s success as well as their struggles are the collective efforts of all their core players, Thomas included.

And for them to get back on track, it won’t be one or two players that will make it happen.

It’ll be a team effort, the kind that will allow Boston to find success against different teams no matter how extremely different their styles of play may be.