Duncan: Playing against KG still tough

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Duncan: Playing against KG still tough

BOSTON -- Kevin Garnett entered the NBA in 1995 and began his career with the Minnesota Timberwolves. Three years later, Tim Duncan was drafted by the San Antonio Spurs, becoming an instant big man matchup for Garnett.

Fast forward to 2012 -- Garnett and Duncan are still going at it on the court. On Wednesday, the pair faced off during the Spurs' 87-86 win over the Boston Celtics.

Now both 35, their matchup hasnt gotten any easier over the years.

Its been difficult, Duncan said of playing against Garnett. Weve always had some great battles. It always seems to turn into a war at some point in the game. But its a lot of fun. I think we bring out a lot of each other.

Garnett, who has been shifted to the center position in a smaller Celtics lineup, posted 16 points (7-19 FG), seven rebounds, and five assists in 33 minutes. Duncan recorded a double-double with 10 points (4-12 FG) and 16 rebounds in 34 minutes.

They found themselves squaring off at several points during the game.

Were both older, were not the go-to guy so we are kind of matched up more, said Duncan. Were both kind of playing more center, so it just happened that way. As usual, its tough playing against him.

Some things never change.

'Ecstatic' Thomas was with Celtics teammates via FaceTime after Game 3 win

'Ecstatic' Thomas was with Celtics teammates via FaceTime after Game 3 win

CLEVELAND – Gone but definitely not forgotten.

Isaiah Thomas, out for the rest of the playoffs with a right hip injury, wasn’t in the Q Arena physically, but his presence – and his face via FaceTime – were inside the locker room in the initial moments following their 111-108 Game 3 win over Cleveland.

“We called him right after the game,” said Boston’s Avery Bradley. “He got to celebrate with us a little bit. It’s sad that he’s not here. We wish he was here with us. We just want him to get better.”

Celtics head coach Brad Stevens added, “I didn’t even realize that had happened until later on. one of my first text messages was from Isaiah.  He’s hurting not being out there but he’s completely invested, for sure.”

He initially suffered the injury on March 15 at Minnesota, but re-aggravated it in the first half of Boston’s Game 2 loss to the Cavs. Less than 24 hours later, Thomas was deemed out for the remainder of the playoffs.

Instead of Thomas being the rock of sorts that the Celtics lean on with his play, he has become their rallying cry for the remainder of the playoffs.

“All we can do is play hard for him,” Bradley said. “He was excited with the way we played. We’re a family. Other guys got an opportunity to step up for us. Marcus (Smart) had a big game for us. It could be somebody else next game.”

Smart led the Celtics with a career-high 27 points which included a career-best seven 3’s going down.

And most important, the Celtics avoided going down 3-0 which would have all but sealed their fate in this series considering no team in league history has ever come back for a 3-0 series deficit.

Doing so without Thomas, the Celtics’ leading scorer and the top regular season scorer in the Eastern Conference, made the win all that more impressive for Boston.

“It meant a lot,” Horford said. “We know, Isaiah gives us so much and gave us so much this year. For him, we definitely wanted to come out and fight for him and our season and our team. It felt good to keep believing despite being down big. Just felt good to win the game and bring life back to our locker room. Because going down 3-0, that’s a death sentence pretty much. This was big.”

Not only to the Celtics players but also to Thomas who also texted head coach Brad Stevens full of excitement following Boston’s surprising win.

“He was excited,” Horford recalled. “He was ecstatic. I know he wishes he was here being part of it. We just need to keep doing it for him and our group and doing the best we can.”