God Dayum!, has it been nice to see. After I’d all but written off the Celtics for now and ever, they have rebounded and are probably starting to instill a little fear in the team’s ahead of them in the standings.
Just about every Celtic has decided to hop in the Way Back Machine and headed back to the beginning of the season, when they were smacking fools around and 72 wins seemed almost realistic. But Paul Pierce is leading the way.
“The Paul Pierce that you saw out in Denver wasn’t the Paul Pierce that usually shows up to play,’’ he said. “I’ve battled through a lot of injuries this year and right now I’m as healthy as I’ve been all year.’’
It’s the difference a month makes. The Celtics, who pulled down eight offensive rebounds in Denver, grabbed 17 last night. Kevin Garnett, still regaining his form a month ago, put up 20 points, 10 rebounds, and 5 assists last night, looking like a version of himself five years ago. Rajon Rondo, who may have felt like he had to do it all a month ago, did a little bit of everything last night, putting together a triple-double (his second of the season) of 11 points, 11 rebounds, and 15 assists.
“It’s a completely different team,’’ coach Doc Rivers said. “All of them are different. They’re better, they’re healthier. They’re feeling better.’’
It’s true. The Celtics are a completely different — and better — team now, compared to two months ago, or two weeks ago, or any time between Christmas and the loss to the Cavs on March 14. They are contenders again, a team to be reckoned with, to be certain.
But I have a problem with saying Kevin Garnett looked like “a version of himself five years ago.” Last night, he was active, he grabbed a lot of rebounds, and he was clearly moving far better than he did for the months of misery this team experienced during the middle of the season. But to say he looked like the Kevin Garnett from five years ago is insane, hyperbolic, and wrong. Five years ago, he didn’t miss chippies in the lane because Nene’s defense affected his shot. Nene would have had to strain his neck looking up at Garnett as Garnett shot it effortlessly over Nene’s head. Five years ago, KG didn’t softly lay balls in when he was around the hoop. He furiously tomahawked them through.
Garnett looked good last night, he’s been faring a lot better as of late, and the Celtics don’t need him to be a super-duper-star anymore. But he’s not what he was five years ago, and he never will be. He had trouble last night finishing around the hoop, trouble he never used to, trouble that resulted in 8-20 shooting from the floor.
Don’t get me wrong. Garnett is playing well enough to win basketball games, a championship even. He just isn’t nearly playing at the level he did back when they called him Da Kid. And that’s not even a knock against him. Five years ago, KG was consistently called one of the three or four best players on the planet, and he averaged 22.2 points and 13.5 rebounds. He was smooth, he was athletic, he could shoot, he could rebound, and he was as good defensively as he was offensively. Da Kid was as complete a player as they come, so being unable to match up to what he used to be is no sin. Far from it, actually. At damn near 34 years old, and with more than 1,000 regular season games under his belt, nobody should expect KG to be the same. I think it’s our fault that we ever did.
Still, he’s giving the Celtics more and more every night, and he’s adjusting to the limitations of age, wear and tear. KG won’t slap a 25 and 15 every night anymore, but he is still putting his 7’0 tall, wiry imprint on every facet of the game.
And the Celtics, as a whole? They’re looking good. Damn good.
2008 good, almost.