Kevin Garnett Remains Deciding Factor in Celtics’ Success

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Kevin Garnett Remains Deciding Factor in Celtics' Success During a recent 3-4 stretch, many aspects of the Celtics' game were called into question. But the underlying concern was always what the future held for Kevin Garnett.

Would he ever really recover from last season's knee injury? Was his explosiveness gone? If the team looks this bad when Garnett is struggling, what does that mean for the rest of the season if he can't stay healthy?

Through it all, Garnett, his teammates and coach Doc Rivers continued to profess that it was just a matter of time before he, and the team, would be clicking.

It appears as if their patience is beginning to pay off.

"You can see it coming. Kevin is coming, Kevin is coming," Rivers said after a 92-85 win over Miami on Sunday in which Garnett shined. "I think it will continue to be small steps."

Put several of those little paces together and you have quite a leap for Garnett.

In a span of four games over eight days, Garnett has hit a game-winning shot, put together a phenomenal 17-of-18 stretch from the floor and pushed aside a troubling limp that had caused some mumbling among the masses.

On Sunday, he had his best game since February, finishing with 24 points on 11-of-12 shooting and showing no shyness above the rim.

"Little bit, little bit," Garnett said when asked if his condition had improved. "The injury is something. You just got to grind through it. You've got to continue to work hard and that's what you are starting to see."

Interestingly enough, what you are starting to see emerged amid Garnett's worst game of the season last Sunday in New York.

In that one, the Big Ticket was noticeably hurt. He was seen dragging his right leg and seemingly had second thoughts on a series of leaps.

Then, after missing 11 of his first 14 shots, Garnett buried a jumper before the buzzer in overtime to lift the Celtics to a much-needed 107-105 win.

Since then it's been the Garnett of old, or at least the one Boston fans are used to seeing.

Against Philadelphia three nights later, he scored 19 points, his best output since Nov. 6. The final shot Garnett took that night went in and the only six he took against Toronto on Friday did the same.

And he was 7-of-7 against the Heat before finally missing midway through the third quarter. No worries, though. Garnett would have a circa 2004 dunk before the quarter ended and made three straight big shots in the final 3:32 to keep Miami at bay.

There is no doubt we are seeing a different Garnett than the one who arrived here three springs ago. The dunks are few and far between, the jumpers a more regular means of scoring. He had zero blocked shots against the Heat, the 10th time in 11 games that has happened for the 10-time NBA all-defensive player.

Such a stretch was unheard of when Garnett leaped through the lane with regularity.

But when Miami forward Michael Beasley took over early in the fourth quarter Sunday by scoring 11 straight points against the Celtics bench, Rivers was forced to make a move.

One factor came into play in keeping Beasley scoreless the rest of the way.

"We put in our starters," Rivers said of what made the difference. "Kevin is just longer and more agile [than other defenders]."

A few weeks from being the difference between a great season for the Celtics and one with the potential for disaster, Garnett was simply the difference.

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