Celtics struggle without Garnett in the lineup

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Celtics struggle without Garnett in the lineup

PHILADELPHIA For those who questioned Danny Ainge's wisdom in ponying up big money for Kevin Garnett to return to Boston (three years, 34 million), you might want to tuck away for safe keeping Monday night's 107-75 preseason loss to Philadelphia.

Boston Celtics coach Doc Rivers unveiled a Kevin Garnett-less roster.

From there, the Sixers proceeded to undress the C's in every way imaginable before handing them one of their worst preseason losses ever, 107-75.

Preseason defeats never stick around in the players' minds too long, and Monday night's defeat is no exception. But for good measure, the C's have another game tonight -- the first for this season's team at the TD Garden -- against the Brooklyn Nets with Garnett presumably back in the lineup.

Now the Celtics don't have to get rocked by 32 points for Doc Rivers to know his team is better -- a lot better -- with Garnett on the floor.

The difference with Garnett on the floor has always been there, evident by him being either first or second on the C's roster in all but the 2008-2009 season (he missed the final 25 games and the all of the playoffs with an injury) in plusminus on the team.

"Kevin always makes a difference, clearly," Rivers said. "The way we mentally approached the game (against Philadelphia) on a whole, with Kevin we would have lost by 22. We still would have lost the game."

Brandon Bass is among those not looking to make too big a deal about Garnett being out of the lineup for one night in the preseason.

"Doc's trying a bunch of different things," Bass said. "Ten games into the regular season, that would be a great question if Kevin don't play. But right now, it's preseason. Doc's trying different things to see what works best for us."

True, this is the time to experiment both with different combinations as well as how the team can function without some core guys available.

But the lack of intensity from the outset on Monday and the way that so many players seemingly gave into the struggles of the game and not fight through them, was disturbing - preseason game or not.

Boston's biggest problem on the floor appears to be in their pick-and-roll coverages, which have been inconsistent even with Garnett in the lineup.

A lot of that has to do with guys simply not being on the same page defensively, the kind of thing that Garnett has a tendency to clean up.

"Some of our guys got frustrated early because other guys forgot plays or didn't know things," Rivers said. "That's a lesson, too. You have to be able to grind a game out. We're going to play 82 regular season games, and I guarantee you we're not going to be great in all of them. But you can still win the game if you have mental toughness."

And that is among the many things that Garnett brings to the floor every night.

So is his constant chatter during games which provides his teammates with a vocal reminder of what they need to do and maybe just as important, keeps them all on a "defensive string" which has been a major factor in Boston's defense ranking among the NBA's best since Garnett arrived in 2007.

"Our main focus right now is communication; our communication with obviously Kevin missing (against Philadelphia), was way down," said C's guard Rajon Rondo. "Kevin's not always going to be there for us, so somebody has to pick it up including myself."

Report: Celtics not one of the teams trying to acquire Cousins

Report: Celtics not one of the teams trying to acquire Cousins

The Sacramento Kings are "fully engaged" in DeMarcus Cousins trade discussions, but it appears the Boston Celtics are not in the running for the All-Star center.

According to Steve Bulpett of the Boston Herald, the Celtics are not one of the teams talking to the Kings about Cousins.

More to come. . . 

 

Davis' 52 points breaks Chamberlain's All-Star record, West beats East, 192-182

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Davis' 52 points breaks Chamberlain's All-Star record, West beats East, 192-182

NEW ORLEANS – The stars were everywhere, on and off the court during the 66th annual NBA All-Star game.

There were lots of hugs, handshakes and goody-good vibes shared by all.

And then … the fourth quarter arrived.

It’s the only time of the game when the All-Star game actually looks like a game and not an open gym full of the best players on the planet.

And as we’ve seen this season, no one is better in the fourth quarter than Boston’s Isaiah Thomas.

True to form, Thomas saw a playing time in the fourth quarter.

But his scoring prowess wasn’t enough with the Western Conference emerging with a 192-182 win.  It is the sixth time in the last seven All-Star games that the West has come away with the victory.

Thomas had 20 points on 7-for-15 shooting and 4-for-10 from 3-point range.

That’s not a bad performance, but there were others who were a lot more prolific shooting the ball.

Kevin Durant, playing in his first All-Star game as a member of the Golden State Warriors, had a triple-double of 21 points, 10 rebounds and 10 assists.

Oklahoma City’s Russell Westbrook, MVP each of the previous two All-Star games, finished with 41 points – one shy of tying the most points scored in an All-Star game.

Despite Westbrook’s monster game, the record wound up being shattered by New Orleans’ Anthony Davis who had 52 points which broke Wilt Chamberlain’s All-Star game record of 42 points set in 1962.

Shooting 26 for 39 from the field, Davis also grabbed 10 rebounds.

One of the more interesting stretches came in the first half between Thomas and Westbrook.

Westbrook grabbed an offensive rebound, saw that he was being guarded by Thomas and snarled at him moments before banking in a 3-pointer.

Thomas wasn’t about to be showed up by his fellow All-Star.

On the ensuing possession, he came right back and hit a long range 3-pointer in Russell’s mug. Westbrook came back with a 3-pointer that was off the mark followed by a Thomas miss.

That sequence was about as close as we came to seeming some semblance of defense played by either team, with lay-ups, and wide open dunks reigning supreme all night.

The much-talked about “reunion” between Durant and Westbrook was very civil, one that included the two connecting on a give-and-go in the first half that ended with a Westbrook basket.

Milwaukee’s Giannis Antetokounmpo gave the crowd better dunks in the All-Star game than the actual slam dunk contest, finishing with 30 points on 14-of-17 with 12 dunks.