On defense, KG helps Celtics talk the talk

191544.jpg

On defense, KG helps Celtics talk the talk

By A. Sherrod Blakely
CSNNE.com

PHOENIX Not a game passes by where Kevin Garnett isn't running his mouth and coach Doc Rivers couldn't be any happier.

For all the talk about KG's trash-talking, regarded as the best of the best in the NBA, what's often overlooked is his role as the voice literally of the Celtics defense.

That defense was again put to the test (and failed) Friday against a Phoenix Suns squad that did what all Phoenix Suns teams try to do run, run and when that doesn't work, run some more. Not only did the Celtics lose the game, 88-71, but both Garnett and Rivers were ejected from the contest.

For all the things that the C's do well, often their ability to effectively communicate with one another is overlooked.

Rivers feels so strongly about making sure his team understands this, every now and then he'll have practice where no talking is allowed.

"Then they find out, a guy gets cracked and knocked down on a pick and then he'll turn around because he can't talk . . . then all of a sudden, you realize how important talking is," Rivers told CSNNE.com. "We don't do that a lot."

That's because most nights, it is evident that the C's place a premium on ensuring everyone on the floor is on the same page defensively.

Even before a sold-out crowd with the collective voices of fans usually drowning out the players on the court, there's no mistaking Garnett barking out defensive instructions to his teammates, or Rajon Rondo alerting a teammate to a screen coming, before it is set.

And when that communication isn't what it should be, players notice.

Rivers recalls Boston's most recent game against Detroit, a game in which the Celtics struggled before ultimately rallying in the fourth quarter for an 86-82 win.

"At halftime, Rondo was complaining that no one was talking," Rivers said. "All the switching that we were doing defensively, there was no talking. We were getting destroyed. You can't play good defense without a lot of guys talking."

For Boston, the productive chatter begins and ends with Garnett.

Even though the C's managed to win six of the nine games Garnett missed when he was out with a muscle strain in his lower right leg, it was clear that their defense suffered in his absence.

In the 36 games Garnett has played this season, the C's are giving up just 90.8 points per game.

In the other nine without him, that number jumps to 94.1 points per game.

"The value he has on your team, is irreplaceable," Rivers said. "It's amazing the difference when he doesn't play. Even though we're still a good defensive team, it's not the same."

Before the Celtics traded for Garnett in 2007, Rivers got a heads-up from Garnett's former coach in Minnesota, Flip Saunders, about what to expect.

"Flip said, 'You're going to be amazed at how much he talks on defense,' " Rivers recalls. "And you knew it anyway when you played against him. You always heard him. It's great."

So is getting back Kendrick Perkins, a player who like Garnett, impacts a game as much with his words as he does with his play on the court.

"Defensively, Perkins doesn't need a lot of help," Garnett said. "He's a talker. We have that chemistry and rapport with him. To have him back to be a force . . . it's good to have Perk back."

Indeed, the return of Perkins has brought the C's as close to being complete as we've seen them all season.

"All the starters have great chemistry," Rondo said. "Not many guys play together four years straight, same starting five. We're in a great situation."

But the on-the-court chatter, making sure teammates don't get beat by giving them a heads-up, it speaks to a bond that goes deeper than simply the game of basketball.

"We actually give two cents about each other, which is a rarity," Garnett said. "We deal with each other off the court, which is a big plus. I'm not just saying that to make your column look like whatever, this is true life. And we enjoy each other; we're like brothers. We argue, we debate, we laugh . . . we're like brothers, real life."

A. Sherrod Blakely can be reached at sblakely@comcastsportsnet.com. Follow Sherrod on Twitter at http:twitter.comsherrodbcsn

Celtics-Wizards preview: Making of a matchup

Celtics-Wizards preview: Making of a matchup

BOSTON -- While it’s debatable whether the Boston Celtics and Washington Wizards are rivals, there’s no question there has been a heightened level of animosity towards one another when they play.

When these two met on Jan. 11, the Celtics came away with a 117-108 win.

But the game itself featured plenty of back-and-forth trash talk, finger-pointing, cries of dirty play and NBA fines.

IN FACT . . . Washington plans to bury Boston

“It’ll be a physical game,” said Jae Crowder who was hit with a five-figure fine for his role in a post-game incident involving Washington’s John Wall. “We have to answer the bell; we’ll be ready.”

Crowder knows he and his teammates must balance being the more physical team, with not losing their cool because if tonight’s game is anything like previous ones, there will be trash talk … lots of trash talk.

“They talk a little bit more than other teams,” said Crowder who added that was a factor in the incident him and Wall which cost them $25,000 and $15,000, respectively.

Crowder said a flagrant-foul committed by Washington’s Bradley Beal against Marcus Smart was what really cranked the level of animosity that was already at a high level.

But Beal probably hasn’t fully put behind him an incident last season in which Smart broke his nose and put him in the league’s concussion protocol program on a Smart drive to the basket.

As far as the hard foul that Beal delivered to him earlier this month, Smart said, “you take exception to every hard foul.”

Smart added, “It’s the game of basketball. You play with your emotions and intensity and everything like that. It comes with the game.”

While Crowder understands the Celtics have to play a physical brand of basketball, he’s not looking to do anything that might result in him having to cut another $25,000 check which was the amount of his fine from the Jan. 11 game against the Wizards.

“I’m looking at it as another game we have to win,” Crowder said. “I’m not looking at it as a rivalry or anything like that. I’m not coming in talking; they might.”

For the Wizards, winners in four of their five games since losing to Boston, a major key to their success lies in the play of their backcourt.

John Wall and Bradley Beal are the latest high-scoring backcourt tandem that the Celtics have to be worried about.

And making matters worse for Boston, the Celtics will have to try and make due without Avery Bradley who is still dealing with a right Achilles injury.

Celtics head coach Brad Stevens said the 6-foot-2 Bradley was not going to be with the team in Washington and would most likely be out all this week.

That means Boston will lean heavily on Smart to not only help the offense run relatively smooth, but also provide some much-needed defense to help limit Wall and Beal who collectively rank among the higher-scoring starting backcourts in the NBA.

“We have to slow them down; by any means we have to slow them down,” Thomas said. “We know they go as far as those two take them. It’s going to be a tough game. They have a lot of momentum at home. It’ll be a tough game for us. But we’re ready for the opportunity.”

Wall and Beal are just the latest in a string of high-scoring backcourts that the Celtics have had to contend with recently.

In Saturday’s 127-123 overtime home loss to Portland, C.J. McCollum and Damian Lillard combined to score 63 points on 20-for-42 shooting from the field.

“This stretch of backcourts is exceptionally difficult,” Stevens said. “They (Wall and Beal) both should be and certainly are in the discussion for the all-star team. It’s a real difficult challenge. Our guys are going to have to be really good on both ends of the floor.”

Wizards to Celtics: We're going to bury you

Wizards to Celtics: We're going to bury you

The last time Boston played at Washington, the Wizards buried them by 25 points.

It seems the Wizards have a similar mindset for Tuesday’s game which will feature every Wizards playing showing up in all-black.

“You know where we’re going with that,” Washington’s Kelly Oubre Jr. told the Washington Post’s Candace Buckner.

Yes.

We do.

But in case anyone wasn’t sure, let John Wall put the cookies on the bottom shelf for you and explain in succinct terms.

“A fun-er-ral!” he said with the man who thought this up, Bradley Beal, in the background yelling, “Yaa!”

The Celtics players acknowledged that Tuesday’s game would most likely be a physical, trash-talking affair.

That stems from their matchup two weeks ago that included a lot of physical play both teams that ultimately ended with the Celtics coming away with a 117-108 win.

ROUND ONE: THE JANUARY 11 GAME

Bradley Beal was whistled for a flagrant-one foul against Marcus Smart that seemed to get both benches hyped up.

Those two have a history dating back to last season when Smart, while driving to the basket, landed his left forearm across Beal’s face. The blow resulted in Beal’s nose being broken in addition to being put in the league’s concussion protocol program.

And after the Jan. 11 game, Jae Crowder and John Wall had a heated exchange of words that ended with Crowder’s pushing his finger into Wall’s nose, and Wall retaliating by slapping Crowder’s face.

The league fined Crowder $25,000 and Wall $15,000 for their roles in the incident.

“It’s going to be a competitive game,” Wall said. “Hopefully everybody just keep it clean and … makes it one of those great battles.”

Said Beal: “We want to keep it clean as much as possible but we know it’ll probably get chippy, a little trash talking.”

Isaiah Thomas, who was whistled for a technical foul in the Jan. 11 game, understands emotions will run pretty high in Tuesday’s game.

 “You just have to be ready for whatever comes our way,” Thomas said. “We’re not going to shy away from it. But we’re all human. There will probably be a little bit of physicality, a little bit of things to carry over to tomorrow’s game. But the most important thing is we just have to try and take care of business.”