Celtics

Garnett: 'It don't take much to motivate me'

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Garnett: 'It don't take much to motivate me'

BOSTON For once, Kevin Garnett failed.

He tried his best to mask the fact that facing Utah's Al Jefferson -- the other central piece in the 2007 trade that got him out of Minnesota and the C's Banner 17 -- was just another game against a young, promising big man.

But when he was asked about added motivation facing Jefferson, Garnett responded, "I wasn't motivated" which was soon followed by an ear-to-ear Garnett grin.

"Next question," he said.

Garnett's play in Boston's 94-82 win left no question that the demise of Kevin Garnett has been greatly, greatly exaggerated.

He turned in yet another stellar performance on Wednesday with a game-high 23 points along with 10 rebounds for his 16th double-double this season -- tops among Celtics players.

It was the kind of performance that is becoming more and more common with Garnett who is playing at a level few expected from him at this point in his career.

"I'm motivated," said Garnett, who will be 36 in May. "I hear y'all calling me old. I hear y'all calling me older, weathered. It don't really take much to motivate me. I'm older in basketball years, but in life I'm 30-something."

With age comes experience and the understanding that on many nights Garnett will play the kind of mind games that often frustrates his younger basketball brethren.

That certainly was the case on Wednesday with Al Jefferson, who had 18 points, but needed 19 shots (he only made seven) to get it. Jefferson's frustration boiled over into the fourth quarter when Garnett's play resulted in Jefferson losing his cool.

The result?

A double technical foul against Jefferson and Garnett.

"One of his Jedi mind tricks worked tonight," said Celtics guard Keyon Dooling. "A lot of times people focus more on antics, and lose sight of a particular possession in the game. His Jedi mind trick worked tonight."

C's coach Doc Rivers knows Garnett's intensity is omnipresent whenever the C's play. But against Jefferson ... Rivers isn't buying it was just another matchup for Garnett, either.

"They clearly have something," Rivers said. "That's how it always is. Al was traded from here and Kevin is here so that will always last. It's good though, it was fun as long as we won."

Although Garnett would not single out Jefferson, there is no doubt that he finds added motivation in ways that go beyond simply wanting to win.

"I don't watch too many of you guy's interviews -- garbage -- but the ones I do catch, it's an opinion and it is what it is, but it puts a spark under me and I like that," Garnett said. "Playing against younger talent that's supposed to be prolific and supposed to be above-average ... but I'm old though, you know? And again, for the third time, it don't take much to motivate me."

Jefferson chalks up Wednesday's game as "Kevin being Kevin."

"It's just him. But I got mad respect for Kevin, great player. He made a way for me, being drafted out of high school, that's all I have to say about that."

Part of Garnett's motivation is internally finding ways to improve his game.

Following the team's loss at Oklahoma City prior to the all-star break, Garnett addressed the team and essentially said every man needs to examine himself and come back ready to play better; otherwise, stay away.

He was speaking to his teammates, but he might as well been talking in the mirror.

Garnett was playing decent basketball before the break, but he knew he too could play better.

"I've been giving myself a true analysis in the mirror, been looking at myself, telling myself, 'what can I do better?'" Garnett said. "I've been going towards that. I know there are some things that I can get better at, and I've been trying to do that."

Garnett has been arguably Boston's most consistent player this season, and has been instrumental in Boston having the third-best record (13-5) since the All-Star break.

"Kevin's been amazing," Rivers said. "I was joking but it's true, but if you had an All-Star vote at the center spot in the league right now, he'd be right up there because that's what he's been since the break. He's a 5 (center) and he's been terrific."

In the 18 games since the break, Garnett is averaging 17.3 points and 8.5 rebounds while shooting 52.4 percent from the field.

Of course part of Garnett's improved scoring has to do with a slight change made by Rivers which has not only helped Garnett offensively, but Rivers believes it has also helped the C's cut down on turnovers.

"The only big we throw it to is Kevin, above the elbow; basically it's that simple," Rivers said. "Before we were running all the elbow offense, but it was any big and we realized that maybe Kevin should be the only (big man) ball-handler above the circle."

But ultimately his success of late -- and that of the C's -- comes down to him not just speaking about improving play, but living it.

"I can't ask a teammate to do something, and look at himself if I'm not looking at myself; that's just me," Garnett said. "When it comes to basketball, you gotta put in your time, you gotta put in your work. You gotta not just talk that talk, but you gotta be able to walk. I'm here. I'm dealing with everything ... but I'm here."

Khudobin can't save Bruins' goaltending situation

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Khudobin can't save Bruins' goaltending situation

The entire concept of Tuukka Rask getting pushed by one of his backups is based on the backup consistently performing at a high standard, and that wasn’t the case for Anton Khudobin over the weekend.

Just as it isn’t solely the fault of Rask when the Bruins lose, it wasn’t solely the fault of Khudobin that Boston squandered leads of 3-0 and 4-1 in an overtime loss to Buffalo on Saturday night. But Khudobin couldn’t step up and carry the B's when they clearly started losing their edge in the second half of the game, and that inconsistency will certainly make the Bruins pine for a sooner-rather-than-later return of a concussed Rask.

“Erratic,” said coach Bruce Cassidy when asked to describe Khudobin postgame. “He battles. We love that about him. He battled to the end. He certainly made his share of saves. We need to be better in front of him. But there were times that, there were fires that needed to be put out that shouldn’t have been necessary. But that happens sometimes.”

It was certainly too much to expect Khudobin to be perfect, but they just needed him to be good enough to pull them through while they were getting waylaid in the second half of the game. That proved to be a major challenge, given the players the Bruins are missing and the extremely rough night suffered by Torey Krug (minus-3 on Saturday night, and minus-8 for the season). Khudobin finished with 37 stops as a defense corps without Adam McQuaid and Kevan Miller wilted in the third period and the overtime, but he couldn’t make the clean saves for whistles when the team really needed them. Case in point was a Rasmus Ristolainen tester in overtime while the Bruins were in the midst of being outshot by a 6-0 margin in the extra session. Khudobin got a glove on it but couldn’t cleanly catch it for a badly needed stoppage in play at a time when Krug, David Pastrnak and Brad Marchand had been caught on the ice for over two minutes.

"The start was great, and the game was great until we scored the fourth goal, and I think after that, we thought it was an easy game,” said Khudobin. “[The high volume of shots] wasn’t that much difficult, I like shots, like probably every other goalie, but they were crashing the net. They were going hard. There were a lot of deflections, a lot of rebounds, a lot of scrums in front of the net, which were . . .that’s the dangerous part, not just the shots.”

Khudobin, 31, has taken five of a possible six points in the games he's played this season and is off to a solid start with a 2-0-1 record, a 2.98 goals-against average and a .910 save percentage. He looks like he’s going to be a perfectly fine backup, enabling the Bruins to hold Rask to the 55-60 games they’ve forecasted for his peak performance this season.

But Saturday night was a major blow to any hopes that Rask would be pushed competitively by his backup, and that a Khudobin hot streak could spark a slow-starting, and now injured, Rask when he does return.

Instead the Bruins are left to hope they can survive while missing Rask along with a number of other key players, and that the goalie returns sooner than later to a team that can’t survive too many morale-crushing defeats like the choke job against the lowly Sabres.

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