If anyone really thought Kevin Garnett was going to waive his no-trade clause and allow the Celtics to deal him, they got a rude dose of reality tonight.
Garnett scored a season-high 27 points and ripped down 10 boards, leading Boston back from a 10 point deficit going into the 4th quarter as the Celtics squeaked by the Toronto Raptors 99-95 on Wednesday night in Air Canada Centre.
It has been a season of streaks for the Celtics, as they have consistently followed up long winning steaks with equally lengthy losing streaks. This was Boston’s fifth consecutive win, so if history repeats itself, Boston is due to a nice losing streak any day now…
…but it wasn’t going to happen against a bad Raptors squad – and Garnett made sure of it.
Rumors had been swirling regarding Garnett’s future in Boston given that the Los Angeles Clippers were supposedly interested in dealing for him, but tonight’s performance was KG’s statement regarding the rumors.
The third period has been the pivotal frame for the Celtics this season, During their winning streaks, it would be moving time – building leads or building upon them, or simply coming back from big halftime deficits, while on losing streaks they would often become transparent in the third and allow their opponents to dictate the game.
So when the Celtics folded like a card table chair in the quarter, allowing the Raptors to score 34 points while all but disappearing on offense themselves, they were looking up from a 10 point hole and it looked like the streaks were about to do another 180…
But then Leandro Barbosa and his crazy Jeff Hornacek-style floater combined with Garnett’s equally sick no looker to tie the game, and the Celtics cruised from there, converting free throws as the Raptors were eventually reduced to fouling.
Barbosa scored 14 off the bench and dished out 4 helpers as he seems to be getting more comfortable with his increased responsibilities, and joined Garnett, Courtney Lee, Paul Pierce, Avery Bradley and Brandon Bass in double figures. Pierce suffered through a miserable shooting night, but still managed 12 points and hit the boards hard, coming down with 11.
Newly acquired Rudy Gay led the Raptors with 25 points and 12 rebounds and Amir Johnson equaled Gay’s rebounding mark and threw down 16 points as well. Andrea Bargnani returned after missing 26 games with a torn ligament in his right elbow to score 13 points for the Raptors who fell to 17-32. DeMar DeRozan also had 13, making five of 16 field goal attempts.
Maybe the Celtics won’t turn on another losing streak, showing the resolve of a veteran led team in coming back after collapsing in the the 3rd quarter. When asked what the difference was between the 3rd and final frames, Garnett responded, “We weren’t moving the ball. Doc climbed on our asses. We started moving the ball.”
Apparently it’s that simple.
Courtney Lee added 15 points, Leandro Barbosa had 14, Avery Bradley 11 and Brandon Bass 10 but it was Barbosa and Garnett that hit the clutch shots down the stretch, Garnett in the spotlight with a 10 foot fade that nailed the game down for Boston, who improved to 25-23 on the season.
The Celtics have no time to savor the win, as they have catch the red eye back to Boston and prepare to play the visiting Los Angeles Lakers tomorrow night while the Raptors fly to Indianapolis for a matchup with the Pacers on Friday before returning to Toronto to take on the New Orleans Hornets on Sunday while the Celtics
There’s something special about these group of Celtics. It’s not necessarily that they are better, but maybe they just have responded positively to having their backs to the wall with the loss of their floor leader…and that a pretty special thing in and of itself.
The winning streak continues…