Sixers have no answer for Garnett in Game 1

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Sixers have no answer for Garnett in Game 1

BOSTON Kevin Garnett has been really good for the Boston Celtics since the All-star break.

But in the last two games, the Big Ticket has been delivering in a way that few would expect from a player so seasoned.

Garnett led the way for Boston with a 29-point, 11-rebound night that proved to be just enough for the C's to slip past Philadelphia, 92-91, in Game 1 of their best-of-seven series.

"Garnett, I've never seen him play better," said Sixers head coach Doug Collins.

It was vintage Garnett, who controlled the action with scoring around the basket and from the perimeter, all while continuing to serve as the anchor for a strong Celtics defense.

And as far as Garnett's offense was concerned, Rajon Rondo was once again feeding Garnett early and often.

"That's the game plan all the time," said Rondo who had his eighth playoff triple-double with 13 points, 12 rebounds and 17 assists. "When we get away from (it), we take a lot of jump shots. We're a jump-shooting team. But when we need a bucket we tend to go to Paul (Pierce) or Kevin."

Against the Sixers, the preferred matchup to exploit was Garnett against Spencer Hawes.

"He (Garnett) had a lot of great looks that he wanted and he made his shots," Rondo said.

The Sixers were well aware of how Garnett dominated the Atlanta Hawks on Game 6 of the C's first-round series. In that game, an 83-80 Celtics win, Garnett had 28 points and 14 rebounds.

Philadelphia threw double teams at him.

They tilted defenders in his direction.

But nothing seemed to work.

"I don't know what else we could have done," Collins said. "He made a lot of tough shots. He hits those long jump shots. We are not going to run out at him or get a hand in his face. You start running around and doing all that, you free up Paul Pierce and all these other guys."

And there lies the challenge that Garnett poses when he's on his game like he has been of late:

His play symbolizes the pick-your-poison dilemma that most teams face when playing the Celtics.

And while the Celtics have a slew of players that have delivered in big-game situations, Garnett has been the player giving teams the most fits lately.

His strong play has made it tough on C's coach Doc Rivers to limit his minutes. In Saturday's win, Garnett played 38 minutes which included the entire fourth quarter.

Boston cut back his minutes earlier in the game with the goal being to play him for most, if not all of the fourth quarter.

"It's still tough, though, honestly, because it's the minutes in a row that I manage more than the cumulative minutes for him," Rivers said. "And that was the risk, but he handled it pretty well."

Said Garnett: "Whatever is asked of me, is what I am going to do. I don't really pay attention to the minutes."

While Garnett openly admits he hates the fact that the C's now have him playing center, there's no argument outer how it has helped both him and the Celtics this season.

"He's been incredible," C's guard Keyon Dooling told reporters after Saturday's win. "Ever since we made that adjustment at the All-Star break and put him at the five, it's really tough for big guys to get out and challenge him. When they try to put smaller, quicker guys on him he goes down on the block and he just raises up right over the top of them. So his play has been inspiring, his defense has been flawless, and he still does all the little things in the energy and effort category that really help our team win."

And all those little things come about because Garnett puts in the time to steadily work towards improvement, as opposed to simply relying on his experience and talent.

"I have no life at this point," Garnett said. "I go home, get treatment, come back in here, study tape, film. No life at all. This is what it is."

With Thomas drawing attention, Stevens turns to Rozier in big moment

With Thomas drawing attention, Stevens turns to Rozier in big moment

BOSTON – Prior to Saturday’s game, Terry Rozier talked to CSNNE.com about the importance of staying ready always, because “you never know when your name or number is going to be called.”

Like when trailing by three points in the fourth quarter with less than 10 seconds to play?

Yes, Rozier was on the floor in that scenario and the second-year guard delivered when his team needed it.

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But Rozier’s fourth quarter heroics which forced overtime against Portland, did not provide that much-needed jolt that Boston needed as the Blazers managed to fend off the Celtics in overtime, 127-123.

For Rozier’s part, he had 15 points on 6-for-13 shooting.

The 15 points scored for Rozier was the most for him since he tallied 16 in a 30-point Celtics win at Orlando on Dec. 7.

But more than the points, the decision by head coach Brad Stevens to draw up a play for him in that moment, a time when most of what Boston does revolves around the shooting of Isaiah Thomas who has been among the top-3 scorers in the fourth quarter most of this season, was surprising to many.

And at that point in the game, Thomas already had 13 fourth-quarter points.

Stevens confirmed after the game that the last shot in the fourth was indeed for Rozier, but Thomas’ presence on the floor was important to its execution.

“He (Thomas) also draws a lot of attention,” Stevens said. “So I think you just weigh kind of … what kind of shot you’re going to get, depending on who it is.”

Rozier had initially screened for Thomas, and Thomas came back and screened for him.

“I was open as soon as I caught … and I let it fly,” Rozier said. “Coach drew up a play for me and it felt good to see the ball go in.”

Being on the floor at that time, win or lose, was a victory of sorts for Rozier.

He has seen first-hand how quickly the tide can change in the NBA for a young player.

After a strong summer league showing and a solid training camp, Rozier had earned himself a firm spot in the team’s regular rotation.

But a series of not-so-great games coupled with Gerald Green’s breakout night on Christmas Day, led to his playing time since then becoming more sporadic.

Rozier, in an interview with CSNNE.com, acknowledged it hasn’t been easy going from playing regular minutes to not being sure how much court time, if any, he would receive.

But he says the veterans on the team have been good about keeping his spirits up, and one in particular – Avery Bradley – has been especially helpful.

Like Rozier, Bradley’s first couple of years saw his playing time go from non-existent to inconsistent. But Bradley stayed the course and listened to the team’s veterans who continued to tell him that his hard work would pay off sooner or later.

Those same words of wisdom Bradley received in his early days, he passes on to Rozier.

“It’s big,” Rozier told CSNNE.com. “He (Bradley) tells me things like that. I felt I was ready for this (inconsistent minutes) after all that he told me. It’s big to have a guy like him that has been through it all with a championship team, been around this organization for a while; have him talk to you is big. It’s always good. That’s why I stay positive, and be ready.”

Which is part of the reason why Stevens didn’t hesitate to call up a play for the second-year guard despite him being a 33.3 percent shooter from 3-point range this season – that ranks eighth on this team, mind you.

“He’s a really good shooter,” Stevens said of Rozier. “I think with more opportunity that will show itself true, but he made some big ones in the fourth quarter. We went to him a few different times out of time-outs, and felt good about him making that one.”

And to know that Stevens will turn to him not just to spell Thomas or one of the team’s other guards, but to actually make a game-altering play in the final seconds … that’s major.

“It helps tremendously,” said Rozier who added that his confidence is through “the roof. It makes me want to do everything. You know defense, all of that. It’s great, especially to have a guy like Brad trust you."