Celtics

Celtics struggle without Garnett in the lineup

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Celtics struggle without Garnett in the lineup

PHILADELPHIA For those who questioned Danny Ainge's wisdom in ponying up big money for Kevin Garnett to return to Boston (three years, 34 million), you might want to tuck away for safe keeping Monday night's 107-75 preseason loss to Philadelphia.

Boston Celtics coach Doc Rivers unveiled a Kevin Garnett-less roster.

From there, the Sixers proceeded to undress the C's in every way imaginable before handing them one of their worst preseason losses ever, 107-75.

Preseason defeats never stick around in the players' minds too long, and Monday night's defeat is no exception. But for good measure, the C's have another game tonight -- the first for this season's team at the TD Garden -- against the Brooklyn Nets with Garnett presumably back in the lineup.

Now the Celtics don't have to get rocked by 32 points for Doc Rivers to know his team is better -- a lot better -- with Garnett on the floor.

The difference with Garnett on the floor has always been there, evident by him being either first or second on the C's roster in all but the 2008-2009 season (he missed the final 25 games and the all of the playoffs with an injury) in plusminus on the team.

"Kevin always makes a difference, clearly," Rivers said. "The way we mentally approached the game (against Philadelphia) on a whole, with Kevin we would have lost by 22. We still would have lost the game."

Brandon Bass is among those not looking to make too big a deal about Garnett being out of the lineup for one night in the preseason.

"Doc's trying a bunch of different things," Bass said. "Ten games into the regular season, that would be a great question if Kevin don't play. But right now, it's preseason. Doc's trying different things to see what works best for us."

True, this is the time to experiment both with different combinations as well as how the team can function without some core guys available.

But the lack of intensity from the outset on Monday and the way that so many players seemingly gave into the struggles of the game and not fight through them, was disturbing - preseason game or not.

Boston's biggest problem on the floor appears to be in their pick-and-roll coverages, which have been inconsistent even with Garnett in the lineup.

A lot of that has to do with guys simply not being on the same page defensively, the kind of thing that Garnett has a tendency to clean up.

"Some of our guys got frustrated early because other guys forgot plays or didn't know things," Rivers said. "That's a lesson, too. You have to be able to grind a game out. We're going to play 82 regular season games, and I guarantee you we're not going to be great in all of them. But you can still win the game if you have mental toughness."

And that is among the many things that Garnett brings to the floor every night.

So is his constant chatter during games which provides his teammates with a vocal reminder of what they need to do and maybe just as important, keeps them all on a "defensive string" which has been a major factor in Boston's defense ranking among the NBA's best since Garnett arrived in 2007.

"Our main focus right now is communication; our communication with obviously Kevin missing (against Philadelphia), was way down," said C's guard Rajon Rondo. "Kevin's not always going to be there for us, so somebody has to pick it up including myself."

BOSTON SPORTS TONIGHT PODCAST: Jayson Tatum vs. Markelle Fultz debate

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BOSTON SPORTS TONIGHT PODCAST: Jayson Tatum vs. Markelle Fultz debate

0:41 - Michael Holley, Tom Giles, and Kayce Smith give their reactions on the Celtics getting their first win of the season and a comparison between Isaiah Thomas and Kyrie Irving in the 4th quarter.

7:17 - Phil Perry joins BST to break down the tale of the tape between the Falcons and the Patriots as he breaks down the quarterbacks, offense, defense, coaching, and intangibles between the two teams.

11:57 - Our crew on BST discuss number 1 overall pick Markelle Fultz and number 3 overall pick Jayson Tatum going up against each other and debate who seems like the better pick so far. 

16:35 - In this segment of Irrelevant Questions, Tom Curran interviews Patriots WR Phillip Dorsett as he asks him a bunch of random questions. 

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Larkin rises to occasion, says he's ready when Celtics call his number

Larkin rises to occasion, says he's ready when Celtics call his number

PHILADELPHIA – Near the end of a preseason game against Charlotte, Boston Celtics guard Shane Larkin was killin’ the Hornets with pick-and-roll action.

It was a preseason game that at the time, didn’t seem to have much value other than to get some of the end-of-the-bench guys a little run up and down the court.

But as it turned out, Larkin's play in that game was one of those things head coach Brad Stevens tucked away, knowing at some point he would count on Larkin to provide similar play in a regular season game.

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Well, that game was Friday night at Philadelphia, a game in which several players for Boston stepped their games up in helping the Celtics get their first win of the season, 102-92.

But you would be hard-pressed to find a bigger game-changer for the Celtics in this game, than Larkin.

He finished with 10 points off the bench, eight of which came in the decisive fourth quarter when the Celtics rallied from five-down to get a hard-fought, much-needed victory.

“You have to always be ready for your name to be called, especially when you have injuries,” Larkin said. “You never know whose night it’s gonna be.”

Boston was playing without Marcus Smart who suffered a left ankle sprain in their 108-100 loss to Milwaukee on Wednesday. Smart was in the starting lineup having replaced Gordon Hayward who underwent left ankle surgery and is expected to be out for the remainder of this season.

“When coach (Stevens) called my name, I had to go out there and be aggressive, play my game,” Larkin said. “And it worked in our favor.”

And while Stevens had watched Larkin play prior to the Celtics signing him this summer, it was a preseason game against Charlotte that really convinced him that the 5-foot-11 guard could help when called upon.

“You’re always watching,” Stevens said. “And if you remember that exhibition game, he finished out that Charlotte game, just running simple spread pick-and-rolls. He’s such a handful with his speed and quickness, and he allows other guys to play off of him. He’s a small guy, but he makes up for it with his speed and skill.”

Al Horford benefited more than any other Celtic with Larkin’s pick-and-roll play which factored into Horford scoring nine of his 17 points in the fourth.

“Shane is a player who understands the game and for us, it was me trying to set a good screen for him and having him make a play,” Horford said. “He just made the right reads, when to shoot it, when to pass it. He just looked very comfortable in that position.”

And to think that Larkin’s big game came about in part because of how well he performed in a preseason matchup against the Hornets.

“I did not know it was that specific game,” Larkin said. “But whenever I step on the court I try to do my best. That’s offensively, defensively, and do what the team needs me to do.

Larkin added, “Whenever my number is called, if he (Stevens) calls it again, I hope he does. I’ll be ready to go out there and do it again.”

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