Celtics Benefit From Kevin Garnett’s Influence, Even When He Isn't on the Court

Down the stretch last night, the Celtics went with Rajon Rondo, Eddie ↵House, Big Baby Davis, Kendrick Perkins, and of course, Paul Pierce. ↵With Ray Allen having fouled out, and Kevin Garnett in street clothes, ↵it was like Danny Ainge had never made the mega-trade that brought the ↵city a championship. ↵
↵
↵We were back in 2006-07, when the Celtics were arguably the worst team ↵in the league. Okay, defensive guru Tom Thibodeau is a new addition, ↵but Al Jefferson is gone. And Doc Rivers is still the head coach. Yet ↵here this line-up was, closing out a playoff win in OT against a ↵Chicago team full of former lottery picks. Something's changed, and ↵it's not just that all these players are older and wiser. To me, this ↵is one of those times where you really see the difference Garnett has ↵made in Boston. ↵
↵
↵Think about the young frontcourt of Davis and Perkins. Since Garnett's ↵arrival, Perkins has learned the intimidator's shtick, and gone from a ↵serviceable big man to a real presence in the paint. Davis, who ↵earlier in the season was driven to tears by KG's exhortations, has ↵stayed tough and active on both offense and defense. It's impossible ↵to imagine these two playing as well as they have this series without ↵Garnett's example and influence. ↵
↵
↵Rondo may be a point guard, but his unique game and varied skill set ↵are nothing if not Garnett-like. And over the last two seasons, we've ↵seen Rondo go from bundle of potential asked merely not to screw up ↵to, with this series, a star in his own right. It's not just that he ↵defies positional logic in the same way Garnett does (especially in ↵his younger days). Rondo also has a way of being everywhere at once ↵that's remarkably inconspicuous, much like KG filling up a stat sheer ↵before you've even realized it. ↵
↵
↵And then there's Pierce, long-suffering cornerstone of the franchise. ↵You can argue that Pierce would've been enough to get past these ↵Bulls, who just barely snuck into the playoffs. But then again, Pierce ↵wasn't enough to keep them out of the deepest depths of the lottery in ↵2006-07. Paul Pierce gave his prime to this team, and had every right ↵to expect it be rebuilt around him. That wasn't happening, and ↵understandably, sometimes he brooded. When Garnett arrived, not only ↵did Pierce get exactly what he wanted: He now had a teammate who, by ↵example, forced him to push himself harder than ever. ↵
↵
↵That's why, as the Celtics put away this one, you saw Pierce overcome ↵the fact that he's done little of note in this series -- and in last night's game. Instead, Pierce stepped up and hit pretty ↵much every shot that needed to be made. Not because Garnett wanted him ↵to, or color commenter Doug Collins patiently demanded it of him. It ↵was because these days, Paul Pierce expects it of himself, no matter ↵how frustrating things get along the way.
↵
↵See Also: Eamonn Brennan on KG's classless antics from last night.↵

This post originally appeared on the Sporting Blog. For more, see The Sporting Blog Archives.

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