CHICAGO – Even though he hasn’t played a minute for the Boston Celtics in four years, Kevin Garnett’s presence remains alive and well in the Boston Celtics’ locker room.
A taped message left by Garnett with a Celtics staff member to share with some of the players, was soon passed along to the entire team.
And it would serve as one of the many motivations Boston had heading into a must-win Game 3 matchup that ended with the Celtics pulling away for a 104-87 victory.
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The Celtics now trail the best-of-seven 2-1 with Game 4 at the United Center on Sunday.
As much as the talk after the game centered around Boston getting its first win in the series, Garnett’s message which had a few – OK, more than a few – expletives in was viewed as one of the keys to Boston getting a much-needed win.
“To me personally, it was everything,” said Boston’s Jae Crowder. “It was just a little motivational speech. We looked like a team that wasn’t having fun; a team that was sulking in the moment. Just have to play for one another, play for the moment … and have fun with it. That’s what he was saying, with a little more KG into it.”
The message hit home in a big way for the Celtics, as player after player talked about how “pumped” up Garnett’s words made them feel before the game.
“Oh man, that was exciting,” said Boston’s Terry Rozier. “That got the whole team pumped. That was great hearing from a legend that played for this organization, been through it all, got to the Finals, won the Finals. Just to hear that inspiration from him was good, especially going into an important game like this.”
It showed in the early moments as Boston raced out to a 14-4 lead to start the game, and led by as many as 20 points in the first half.
Avery Bradley is the only Celtic on the roster who played with Garnett when he was in Boston, so the message really hit home with him.
“It almost felt like he was in the locker room with me again,” Bradley said. “It was a good feeling.”
I asked Bradley did the message have any curse words.
“Of course,” said Bradley, grinning. “Of course; same KG but it got us going.”
Here are the Stars, Studs and Duds from Game 3 between Boston and Chicago.
The stat line for Horford doesn’t look all that different than other games we’ve seen from him, but make no mistake about it. This was Horford’s best game as a Celtic, not only because of his numbers but because of his overall impact at both ends of the floor in what was an absolute must-win matchup if Boston were to have any shot at rallying back in this series. He finished with 18 points on 8-for-14 shooting with eight rebounds, six assists, four steals and a blocked shot.
The Bulls were searching for a spark all game, and Wade came as close as anyone to providing what they needed. He led the Bulls with 18 points but did so on a not-so-efficient 6-for-18 shooting.
This was easily Bradley’s most complete game in the postseason thus far. He had 15 points on 5-for-10 shooting with seven rebounds, seven assists and two steals all the while playing a key role as one of the many defenders Boston used to limit the scoring of Chicago’s Jimmy Butler.
After an up and down regular season, Rozier was very much a difference-maker for the Celtics off the bench in Game 3. He led Boston’s second unit scoring with 11 points on 4-for-6 shooting with three rebounds and a steal. And just as significant, Boston was a +19 in the 23 minutes, 18 seconds he played.
He wasn’t as dominant in Game 3 as we saw in Games 1 and 2, but Lopez was nonetheless effective when he was on the floor. He finished with 12 points on 5-for-7 shooting with six rebounds.
At no point did it seem Butler was going to lead the Bulls back into the game. Boston’s perimeter defenders absolutely dogged him all game, limiting the usually high-scoring Butler to just 14 points on 14-for-21 shooting. The most telling stat about his game? The Bulls were a minus-27 when he was on the floor.