Last year, the Washington Wizards waltzed into the TD Garden on April 9 and gave a good old-fashioned whooping to the Celtics on their home floor, getting up 20 in the third quarter and holding on for 106-96 win that was never in doubt. Andray Blatche, a 23-year-old kid that most Boston fans couldn't pick out of a lineup, torched Kevin Garnett for 31 points and 11 rebounds, yapping in the face of the future Hall of Famer and humiliating him in front of a sellout crowd in Boston.
This year, KG and the Celtics got revenge in a big, big way.
"This team gave us problems last year, and we haven't forgotten that," Garnett said after a blowout victory Wednesday night, 114-83. "I haven't. We made a note of it."
Garnett shot a brilliant 9-of-11 from the field in the Celtics' fifth consecutive home win. He finished with 18 points, seven rebounds, two assists and a steal, and he made Blatche a non-factor for much of the night.
The Celtics' star forward has been criticized this season for bullying inferior players with his extracurricular antics — the trash-talking, the elbowing and shoving, the clapping in their faces. But on Wednesday night, Garnett bullied with his play, setting the tone for a huge Celtics win.
"That's who he is," said his coach, Doc Rivers. "He wants to be the best. He doesn't want the guy he's playing against to play well. He's built that way."
The Celtics have been one of the NBA's most hated teams for three years now, going on four. So every opponent that walks into the Garden does so on a mission, and the C's are used to that by now.
But occasionally you see nights like this one, where the Celtics come out equally motivated. The result is a 31-point win where the starters rest the whole fourth quarter.
The Celtics had four grueling games against Washington last year, as the Wizards' active young bigs picked them apart and hit big shots when needed. To set a different tone this year, it had to start with KG, who needed to take a little something extra away from last year's struggles against Blatche and company.
"I think he took a little bit," Rivers said. "They always do. Players, they have memories. I don't think that game, as far as them beating us last year, did a lot to this game, honestly. It was one game. But individually, when a guy plays well on you, you want to shut that off as soon as possible. Otherwise, he gets confidence on you and you have to deal with it."
Garnett will have a lot of matchups this season like Andray Blatche — young guys who have idolized him all their lives and are eager to make a name for themselves by outplaying a future Hall of Famer. On the surface, you'd think he'd have to dial it up a level against young players of Blatche's caliber.
But that's not how Garnett operates. He's only got one gear.
"To be honest with you, my mentality is to play each person in front of me the same," he said. "I'm not trying to be your buddy, I'm not trying to be your friend. It's part of my preparation, and I'm very to the point. I could care less about what kind of name you're trying to make off of me. That's what it is. That's competition. If you're not out here trying to defeat me, then why are you out here?
"I was young once, too. When I played Karl Malone and some of the other older guys, I was just as geeked and just as excited to play against them. So I anticipate for young guys to be the same way, not just against me, but also Paul [Pierce], [Shaquille O'Neal], Ray [Allen], same thing. That's what it is."
There will be a lot of geeked youngsters this season. The Celtics are a living, breathing wing of the Hall of Fame, and there's a lot of shock, awe, and also motivation that comes with that.
If Wednesday night is any indication, the C's will be ready for it all season long.