Celtics

Garnett responds to Hawks owner on and off court

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Garnett responds to Hawks owner on and off court

BOSTON Kevin Garnett is pretty self-motivated, but any edge he can find in that category he will greatly accept.

He found one heading into Thursday's Game 6 matchup with the Atlanta Hawks, a game in which one of the Hawks co-owners, Michael Gearon, Jr., delivered just the kind of verbal ammo that has a tendency to charge up the NBA veteran.

Thursday's game was no exception, as Garnett tallied 28 points and 14 rebounds in leading the C's to an 83-80 game.

Boston had squandered a nine-point lead in the fourth, ultimately falling behind before - who else? - Garnett came to the rescue with a 13-footer in the lane with 30 seconds to play.

The C's never trailed afterward.

And while there were plenty of folks Garnett could have thanked for Thursday's win, there was only one person on his mind initially - Hawks co-owner Michael Gearon Jr. who made a number of disparaging comments about Garnett, including that all-time classic that you hear time and time again - he's a dirty player.

"First off, I want to say thank you to their owner for giving me some extra gas tonight," Garnett said. "My only advice to him is next time he opens his mouth, actually know what he's talking about.

Garnett added, "we're not dirty; we're firm, we play aggressive. We're not dirty. Ya know you have to understand the word dirty in this game is very defined. Going under guys, trying to hurt guys, ill intent, it's not the way we play basketball. I just found that comment to be a little rude and a little out of hand and I wanted to address it. Just because you got a bunch of money don't mean you can open your mouth."

Gearon's comments made the rounds in the C's locker room, with a number of players well aware that such talk can only help the Celtics.

"From the All-Star break, there hasn't been any young player at the 4 (power forward) or 5 (center) position that's been better than him," said Celtics guard Keyon Dooling. "I guess he's putting to rest, 'he's got older legs.' He's not aging, he's aged."

While there's no question Gearon's comments were a factor in Garnett's monster game, teammates understand that's not the only thing that drives him.

"His motivation is all about winning," Pietrus said. "He's dedicated to win. That's why one brain fits all the brains in this locker room. That's why I love KG; we love KG. Even in practice, he comes to practice everyday I understand every player wants to be a Kobe or a LeBron, but watch KG, you're going to learn from him."

His teammates learn about his work ethic and commitment to his craft, which is to be the best basketball player, the best teammate he can possibly be.

For those on the outside like Hawks co-owner Michael Gearson Jr., you learn that the soon-to-be-36 year old Garnett still has a lot of basketball left in him.

And if that's questioned, Garnett will respond in a way that serves as a reminder of sorts that when properly motivated (like calling him old, washed up or a dirty player), he can still dominate games in a way so few players in the league can do now.

WATCH: Celtics vs. Heat

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WATCH: Celtics vs. Heat

Tune into NBC Sports Boston to watch the Celtics play the Heat in Miami. You can also click here to watch the Celtics livestream presented by Nissan on the NBC Sports App. Coverage begins at 7 p.m. with Celtics Pregame Live Presented by ACE Ticket.

- Game preview: Will Celtics be drained by emotional comeback win Monday in Dallas?

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Celtics-Heat preview: Will Celts be drained by emotional win in Dallas?

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Celtics-Heat preview: Will Celts be drained by emotional win in Dallas?

The Boston Celtics remain a team whose collective talents are far more valuable than their individual abilities.

But there are going to be nights when someone has to shoulder a larger burden of the team in order to win. More often than not, that “one” will likely be No. 11, Kyrie Irving. 

We saw in Dallas what can happen when Irving feels he has little choice but to put the team on his back and carry them to victory. 

The Celtics were desperate for a spark against the Mavericks and found it in Irving, who scored 47 points in leading the Celtics to a come-from-behind 110-102 overtime win. 

It remains to be seen if the Celtics will require a similar Herculean effort tonight when they take the Miami Heat with a chance to extend their winning streak to 17 straight. 

This team isn’t one to dwell on success in the past, even if the past was just 24 hours ago. But there’s no getting around how what happened on Monday night might impact what we see against the Heat. 

Boston expended a tremendous amount of energy in rallying from a double-digit deficit in the fourth quarter at Dallas, the kind of effort that may be difficult to replicate against a Miami team that you can count on to play hard from the opening tip to the final horn. 

Irving’s performance was one of the rare instances this season when Boston clearly could not have won without their top scorer having a big game. 

“When we needed it most, he made big shot after big shot,” said Al Horford. “He had such good rhythm, I was thinking, ‘just let him keep it going.’ He just kept being aggressive, taking really good shots. He recognized he needed to be extra aggressive, especially at the end and score the ball for us.”

Scoring could potentially be at a premium against Miami which allows 102.5 points per game which ranks ninth in the league in fewest points allowed. Also, the Heat will test Boston’s perimeter defenders. Miami comes into tonight’s game averaging 11.1 made 3-pointers per game which ranks ninth in the NBA. 

The Heat are led by Goran Dragic who is averaging team highs in scoring (18.3 points) and assists (4.7) this season. 

These two squared off earlier this season in Miami with the Celtics coming away with a 96-90 win as Kyrie Irving and Jayson Tatum led the way with 24 and 20 points, respectively. In that game, the Heat were without starting center Hassan Whiteside, who will be in the lineup tonight as the Heat try to bounce back after losing three of its last four games.

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