CLEVELAND Kevin Garnett has been a guy who plays - not pontificates - his point most of the time when it comes to the game of basketball.
Following the team's last game - a loss to the Oklahoma City Thunder - he urged his teammates - every last one of them - to step their game up in the second half of the season which began Tuesday night.
And in typical Garnett fashion, it was his play that ultimately had the final word as Boston managed to squeak out an 86-83 win over the Cleveland Cavaliers.
Garnett led the way with 18 points, which included a pair of free throws with 3.9 seconds to play.
Not only did his free throws put the C's in great position to win, but it also pushed him past Charles Barkley for the No. 18 spot among the NBA's all-time leading scorers with 23,758 points.
Cleveland, though, had a chance to force overtime.
After a Cavs time-out, Cleveland in-bounded the ball to Kyrie Irving who was immediately fouled on a long two-pointer.
Irving, who had made his previous three free throw attempts, made both to cut Boston's lead to 84-83 with 3.5 seconds to play.
After a Celtics time-out, the ball wound up in the hands of Ray Allen who put the game away.
Cleveland's last gasp was a 3-point attempt by Anthony Parker that hit the front of the rim as time expired.
After controlling the game for the better part of the first half, the Cavaliers began to take over in the third which ended with Cleveland clinging to a 66-64 lead.
The two went back and fourth in the fourth, exchanging basket for basket, turnover for turnover.
After the way the game started, this game didn't seem as though it would be another nail-biter like the first two meetings with the total margin of victory in those games being a (not-so whopping) four points.
The Celtics got off to the kind of start you would expect from a team that was motivated to put as much distance as possible between themselves and the problems of the first half of the season.
Ray Allen, who usually starts games relatively slow offensively, reached double figures scoring in the first half, with 10 points on 4-for-6 shooting. He finished with 22 points.
His play along with Garnett's inside scoring (12 first half points) were instrumental in the Celtics leading by as many as 16 in the first half before having to settle for a 43-38 halftime lead.
But the Celtics, as we've seen so many times this season, found a way to squander control of the game.
And the mode of self-destruction tonight was turnovers, with most being unforced miscues.
Rajon Rondo, doing his best Jeremy Lin impression minus the points scored, had five turnovers in the first half. He was scoreless with 11 assists and did not turn the ball over at all in the second half.
Even with all the turnovers (the C's had 18 which led to 20 points), Boston still spent most of the game playing with the lead.
HOT SHOT: Kevin Garnett delivered the kind of all-around game that the Celtics desperately needed to kick off the second half of the season. He scored 18 points, including a pair of free throws with 3.9 seconds to play that ultimately would prove to be the game-winning points. Garnett also grabbed a team-high eight rebounds, one of which was an offensive rebound of his own miss that set up his game-winning free throws. "He's been the model of consistency for us the whole year," said Paul Pierce. "Inside, doing all the little things, defensively; offensively, he's really picking it up over the last month. When he's playing well, we're tough to beat."
IN-N-OUT: It was one of those kind of nights for Rajon Rondo. While he's not known as a shooter, 0-for-6 is bad even by Rondo standards. And when you throw in the five turnovers in the first half, Rondo and the Celtics will just as soon take this win and start looking ahead to their next game. Celtics Doc Rivers thought Rondo got down on himself because of the turnovers. Said Rondo, "not necessarily down. I just wanted to take better care of the ball. I'm the point guard and it starts with me. I just wanted to do a better job of taking care of the ball." He did that in the second half as he played just under 15 minutes and did not have any turnovers. "I didn't have a lot of assists, either. I just tried to keep it as simple as possible. It worked. We got the win."
SUPER SUB: With Rajon Rondo struggling, the Celtics got a major boost from Avery Bradley's play. He played around 16 minutes, scoring six points to go with three assists. When the C's were struggling in the third quarter, Boston went through a stretch in which Bradley either scored or had an assist on nine straight points for the C's. "I just felt, the bench, when you come in you have to do your role," Bradley said. "You have to play hard."
TURNING POINT:Leading 82-81 with the ball, Kevin Garnett missed a 16-foot jumper with 4.9 seconds. One second later, Garnett fought off a couple of Cleveland big men for the offensive rebound - it was only Boston's fifth of the night. He was fouled on the play, and made both free throws with 3.9 to play. Those free throws would prove to be the game-winning points for the C's.
BY THE NUMBERS: 23,758: That would be how many points Kevin Garnett has scored in his career which now has him No. 18 all-time after surpassing Charles Barkley by one point on Tuesday.
QUOTE OF NOTE: "It was a win. That's all it was for us. We'll take the win. We needed the win."- Celtics coach Doc Rivers.