Garnett proves he can still score when called upon

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Garnett proves he can still score when called upon

By A.Sherrod Blakely
CSNNE.com

BOSTON Kevin Garnett has amassed more points than all but 24 players to ever play in the NBA.

And yet when folks talk about Garnett and the impact he has on the Boston Celtics, it seems to always begin and end with defense.

Garnett doesn't mind, of course.

He'll be the first to tell you that it's his defense, more than anything else, that defines who he is as a player.

But every now and then, KG reminds us all that when motivated, he can score with the best of them.

Garnett put on a scoring clinic in helping the Celtics sweep the Knicks out of the playoffs.

In the decisive Game 4 matchup at Madison Square Garden against the New York Knicks, Garnett scored a team-high 26 points, which included six of the C's last eight points, to secure a 101-89 win.

With a second-round series likely to begin this weekend against the Miami Heat, similar efforts might be needed from the Big Ticket.

However, you're not going to see or hear Garnett demand the ball.

If anything, he'll demand to switch out defensively on a red-hot player on the other team, like he did in Game 2 when New York's Carmelo Anthony lit up the Celtics for 42 points in a losing effort.

When it comes to scoring, Garnett is more likely to be talked into being more of a scorer, than him actually taking the initiative and command the ball be thrown to him.

Sunday's Game 4 win over the Knicks was no exception.

"I don't get on Kevin often, but on Sunday . . . he was so pass-conscious because of the trapping," coach Doc Rivers said. "We had times where there were point guards on him. We just wanted him to be aggressive."

Being aggressive is not an issue for Garnett. You see it in the way he defends. But when it comes to scoring, Garnett tends to defer to his teammates.

Washington Wizards coach Flip Saunders used to coach Garnett in Minnesota. He wasn't the least bit surprised at Garnett's willingness to get shots for teammates as opposed to himself after being traded to Boston.

"He doesn't care about points," Saunders told CSNNE.com. "Defense is what drives him, what makes him who he is."

But at 6-foot-11, Garnett has the ability to score around the basket with the best of them, in addition to knocking down jumpers in pick-and-pop situations.

And just in case you forgot, Garnett delivers a performance like the one he had in Game 4 to serve as a reminder.

"People forget, the guy can score," said Celtics forward Jeff Green. "He's been doing it his whole career. He's known for his passion that he brings to the game and his defensive intensity. But if you leave him open, he's going to knock down the shot."

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

The '86 Celtics Interviews podcast (Ep.8): Dan Shaughnessy

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The '86 Celtics Interviews podcast (Ep.8): Dan Shaughnessy

Boston Globe columnist, and former Celtics beat writer, Dan Shaughnessy sits down with CSN for an extended discussion on "The '86 Celtics Interviews" podcast. Shaughnessy talks about the greatness of that team and the players' surprising reaction when they found out he was moving from the Celtics to the Red Sox beat.

Starter, bench or DNP: Zeller ready for any role with Celtics

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Starter, bench or DNP: Zeller ready for any role with Celtics

Every weekday until Sept. 7, we'll take a look at each player at the Celtics roster: Their strengths and their weaknesses, their ceiling and their floor. We continue today with Tyler Zeller. For a look at the other profiles, click here.

BOSTON – The NBA is a league full of highs and lows for players.

There are few who understand this as well as Tyler Zeller, a player who has gone from starting to being a backup to not playing at all – at times in the same week.

And through it all, you never heard him gripe about it publicly or privately to teammates.

It’s among the many reasons you constantly hear his teammates talk about how much they respect the way he has handled some extremely difficult situations.

This past season was especially tough for him considering he was heading into free agency and looking to do all he could to not just win, but showcase what he could do as player.

There were many nights when Zeller didn’t have that opportunity, but he understood.

The Celtics have been and will continue to be a team that’s about finding ways to win and on many nights coach Brad Stevens decided to go in a direction that didn’t include Zeller playing.

As the summer dragged on and the Celtics’ joined the handful of teams that came up short in landing Kevin Durant, Zeller’s return became more likely.

And Zeller’s patience was rewarded with a two-year, $16 million contract with the second year of the deal being a team option.

Now that he’s back in the fold, what’s next?

The ceiling for Zeller: Part-time starter

It may not happen on opening night and it may not happen in the first week, or even first month, of the season.

But at some point, Tyler Zeller will be in the Celtics’ starting lineup.

And when he’s there, he’ll do a lot of good things that he has proven he’s capable of doing.

When it comes to running the floor in transition, Zeller has distinguished himself as one of the Celtics best big men.

The Celtics are big on playing with space and pace and there are few 7-footers who can run the floor as well as Zeller.

In fact, his PACE (number of possessions per 48 minutes) last season was 101.93 which was tops among all Celtics frontcourt players and second overall to guard Marcus Smart (102.46).

It’ll get the Celtics a few easy buckets here and there, but it won’t score enough points with the coaching staff to keep a starting job, which would then relegate him back to being one of the team’s frontcourt reserves.

Still, Zeller is a luxury that few teams have: a player who won’t get (overly) bent out of shape even if his minutes resemble this.

The floor for Zeller: On the roster

Zeller has spent the bulk of his NBA career as a back-to-the-basket center, but showed more desire to score more from the perimeter last season, which is one of the reasons why he shot a career-low 47.6 percent from the field.

He’s trying to expand his game because of the direction that the NBA is going with big men who need to be able to score further away from the basket in addition to providing a presence around the rim.

While Zeller has decent mechanics on his perimeter shot, it’s clear that he’s not yet totally comfortable being a “stretch big.”

According to NBA.com/stats, Zeller shot 30.9 percent from the field last season on wide open shot attempts from at least 10 feet away.

With the addition of Al Horford and the return of Amir Johnson as well as Kelly Olynyk, Boston has a nice group of stretch centers they can put on the floor. And let’s not forget about Jonas Jerebko, who closed out the playoffs as a starter for Boston.

Minutes will once again be hard to come by for Zeller with any kind of consistency.

In fact, there’s a very good chance that he will have some games in which he doesn’t play (coaches decision) at all.

And depending on injuries, he may have to be inactive at times just to ensure Boston has depth on the perimeter.

Whether he’s starting, coming off the bench or not suited up at all, Zeller is an important part of this Celtics squad. Above all else, he provides depth, which continues to be one of the hallmarks for this franchise under Stevens.