KG still has some fans

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KG still has some fans

By: Rich Levine
CSNNE.com

LOS ANGELES Not every young NBA big man hates Kevin Garnett.

Its true.

For every Joakim Noah, Charlie Villanueva and Dwight Howard; for every kid who grew up idolizing the Celtics star, only to become disenchanted after meeting him face-to-sweaty face, theres a young pro who still sees Garnett as the player theyd one day like to be; who doesnt take his affronts as a sign of disrespect, but more a means for victory; who doesnt care so much about KG the bully as much as they do KG the teammate or KG the NBA champ.

With all the hits Garnetts reputation has taken over these last four months, you wouldnt necessarily think this was possible. You got the sense that KGs antics had gotten the best of even his most ardent former disciples and that the only fans Garnett had left in the league were the 14 guys he shares a locker room with.

But from talking to some of the big men in Friday nights NBA RookieSophomore game, you realize thats not the case.

Now, thats not to say that these guys still idolize KG. None of them do, and thats more than understandable. After all, its one thing to look up to a player when youre growing up. When hes in a place you want to be. When hes reaching levels and dominating the game in ways that you could only dream. Everyone needs an idol; someone to push you to bigger and better things; someone to extend your aspirations and prove how much one person can accomplish. And if you were an especially bigespecially talented, young basketball player the late 90s or early 00s then Kevin Garnett was that guy.

But once youve reached this level, once hes your competition, you need to forget about all that idolization. Theres no more time for that.

OK, maybe just a little.

Pistons center Greg Monroe recalls the first time he took the court against KG:

It was weird, said the rookie, whos averaging 7.4 points and 6.4 rebounds this season. Thats somebody I idolized growing up. Thats Kevin Garnett. Hes one of the best big men to ever play the game. Hes definitely one of the best to ever play in my lifetime. So youre walking out on the court now, and pounding fists with him before the game, and hes doing his routine, and all this stuff that youve been watching him do for years, and I actually had to guard him. So you know, it was surreal but obviously you have to get out of that.

Once Monroe did get out of that he said he was able to then just appreciate all that Garnett does, without getting caught up in the extra curriculars.

I dont want to say its a tough guy image, Monroe said, hes just a tough player. Thats how it is in this league. People get it mistaken a whole lot. Most of the time hes not even talking trash. Sometimes he is, but most of the time hes just talking. Thats why hes such a good player, thats why hes such an anchor on defense. A lot of people take that as him talking trash but hes not.

The Nets (for now) rookie Derrick Favors was three years old when Garnett entered the league, but as he grew up and developed into one of the biggest frontcourt prospects in the country, Garnett was always a guy Favors looked up to. That came to a head when he first met KG on the court.

My first time playing in Boston I was a little nervous, probably the most nervous Ive ever been playing a basketball game, Favors said. I was star struck.

He also knew that those nerves were something Garnett might try to use to his advantage. He understood why, too. Because it gave his team a better chance to win.

And Favors respects that; he would even do it himself if he had the chance (and its likely that some day he will). But for now, all he can do is stay focused and not let Garnett get the best of him.

I knew I had to forget about all that and try to play my game, Favors said. Hell try to get up under your skin, but Ill never let him do that. Its tough but you gotta be tough. You gotta have tough skin and thats what I got.

Taj Gibson, 25, was thrown into KGs fire last season when he was drafted by the Bulls, and has logged a good deal of minutes in five career match-ups against Garnett. But for Gibson, the connection grew even tighter when Tom Thibodeau took over in Chicago. As the power forward in Thibodeaus defense, Gibson began looking at Garnetts game in a whole new light, and with a new level of appreciation.

Its kind of strange, because you look at him on film, and see how he plays and you see how Thibs has us doing that every day in practice, Gibson said. And its crazy because you want to get to that level. You want that championship. So I think its great. I think hes great

As for the reputation, or the antics that have led others, like Noah, Howard and Villanueva to take such a negative stance on KGs character?

It doesnt really matter what you think about him, Gibson said. At the end of the day hes a team player, his teammates love him, and they won a ring. He win games. Hes where I want to be.

Rich can be reached at rlevine@comcastsportsnet.com. Follow Rich on Twitter at http:twitter.comrlevine33

C's edge out Sixers 107-106

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C's edge out Sixers 107-106

The Boston Celtics had another one of those nights when the defense took a lot longer to get on track than anyone with the Celtics could have felt comfortable about.

But they made just enough plays down the stretch to squeak out a 107-106 win.

Isaiah Thomas led all scorers with 37 points to go with seven assists.

Philadelphia's Dario Saric, who finished with 21 points and 12 rebounds off the bench, missed a 3-pointer that was defended tightly by Jonas Jerebko, that was rebounded by Marcus Smart.

With 8.6 seconds to play, Smart made both free throws to make it a two-possession game.

Philadelphia's Ersan Ilyasova hit a 3-pointer with 2.8 seconds to play, which led to Boston's Brad Stevens immediately calling a time-out.

Coming out of the time-out, Boston's Jae Crowder in-bounded the ball to Al Horford who was fouled with 1.7 seconds to play.

Horford made both free throws to seal the victory. With a four-point lead, Ilyasova hit yet another 3-pointer as the final horn expired.

Down the stretch, the Celtics were led by Thomas who scored 12 of their last 17 points.

After leading 90-88, Thomas scored eight straight to put Boston ahead 98-91.

But the Sixers were getting a career night from Saric whose scoop shot with 34.6 seconds to play tied the game at 100.

Following a Celtics time-out, Thomas continued his dominant fourth quarter with a blow by lay-up past Saric.

The Sixers, down 102-100, called a time-out with 30 seconds.

Philadelphia had three shots at the rim following the time-out, but the ball eventually wound up in the hands of Avery Bradley who was fouled with 16.3 seconds to play.

Bradley,who had 20 points and nine rebounds, made the second of the two free throws that put Boston ahead by three points.

After being tied at 74 through three quarters, the Celtics opened the fourth with an 8-2 run highlighted by an Al Horford 3-pointer that made it an 82-76 game.

The Sixers called a time-out with 10:22 to play, well aware that the game’s fleeting momentum was squarely in Boston’s favor.

Philadelphia didn’t fall too far behind, but the Celtics’ control of the game seemed to continue to grow.

Boston got back into the game with timely stops, big blocks (Jaylen Brown) and a bunch of multiple effort plays which collectively were in stark contrast to how things went in the first half.

Philadelphia has been among the worst teams in the NBA this season, and were playing without their best player Joel Embiid who does not play in the second night of back-to-back games (Philadelphia played Orlando on Friday night).

So without their best interior force offensively, the Sixers relied heavily on their 3-point shooting.

It was a good strategy that the Celtics had no answer for in the first half which was one in which Boston spent primarily playing catch-up.

The Sixers, who came into the game ranked ninth in the NBA in 3-point shooting (36.1 percent) and seventh in 3-pointers made (10.6), were a blistering 9-for-18 on 3s in the first half.

Meanwhile, Boston’s offense never seemed to get into any kind of flow or rhythm which was a key to the Celtics going into the half trailing 53-45 after having fallen behind by as many as 11 points.

At the half: Sixers applying pressure early and often against the Celtics

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At the half: Sixers applying pressure early and often against the Celtics

The Celtics are getting more than they bargained for against the Philadelphia 76ers who are once again, record-wise, among the worst teams in the NBA.

They didn’t look like it in the first half which ended with the Celtics trailing the Sixers 53-45.

Boston came into the game having won its last four road games. And they did so by playing solid defense, something that has been noticeably absent in the first half.

Philadelphia came into the game as one of the NBA’s better 3-point shooting teams and has lived up to the lofty ranking.

In the first half Philadelphia made nine of its 18 three-point attempts while the Celtics are way, way, way at the other end of the 3-point shooting spectrum while missing eight of their 11 3s with Isaiah Thomas making a pair with the lone other made 3-pointer coming from Marcus Smart.

The defense struggled, the offense never had any kind of flow and not surprisingly, the Celtics found themselves playing from behind most of the first half.

Here are the first half stars from Saturday’s game.

STARS

Sergio Rodriguez: His playmaking was solid as usual, but it was Rodriguez getting it going with his jumper that really produced surprisingly strong results for the Sixers. He had 11 points, four assists and a steal in the first half.

Isaiah Thomas: Playing his game which is shooting and attacking the rim, Thomas was Boston’s lone double-digit scorer in the first half with 15 points which is tops among all players.

STUDS

Dario Saric: It was a solid first half as Saric contributed both on the boards and the scoreboard. He had 10 points in the first half along with five rebounds.

Gerald Henderson: Henderson had one of those high efficiency-type games with 11 points on 4-for-5 shooting.

DUDS

Celtics 3-point shooting: It was a miserable first half for a team that has been among the NBA’s leaders in 3-pointers made and taken this season. At the half, Boston has shot 2-for-10 on 3's.

Celtics defense: Boston has shown little to no signs of providing the kind of push-back they’ll need in order to leave Philly with a win. In addition to allowing Philadelphia to shoot 47.4 percent from the field, Boston also allowed the Sixers to knock down nine 3's.