Kevin Garnett didn't sleep much on Thursday night. He had spent his Thanksgiving ruefully looking back on a loss earlier this week to the Toronto Raptors, and he was anxiously awaiting a chance to get revenge.
Thanks to the schedule gods, he got that chance Friday night at the TD Garden, and he made the most of it. The Big Ticket was big to the tune of 26 points, 11 rebounds, two steals and an assist, and he carried the Celtics to 110-101 victory over the visiting Raptors.
Garnett and the Celtics went north of the border over the weekend, and their motivation must have been confiscated by customs officials at the Toronto airport. Sometime this week, they got it back.
"I was motivated in more than one way tonight," Garnett said after Friday's victory. "We needed this win. I think we looked at the loss up there as one that we gave away, and that stuck with us all the way into tonight."
North of the border, Garnett got lit up by Raptors star Andrea Bargnani for 29 points; KG himself was more tentative offensively and settled for just 12. That matchup decided the game. So the Celtics' forward decided to get even on Friday, holding the Raps' former No. 1 pick to 11 points on 4-of-13 shooting.
"Kevin's energy tonight was off the charts," coach Doc Rivers said. "And you knew it would be if you know Kevin, because the last time we played them, the guy in his position had a pretty good game. That's just Kevin Garnett."
"Doc has different ways of motivating me," Garnett said. "He pulled me to the side and said that he wasn't really happy with the Bargnani situation up there, and I wasn't really pleased with that, either. Tonight was just more of a concentrated effort to keep him under control. It doesn't take much to motivate me."
If Garnett and the Celtics were this motivated every night, they could pulverize the Bulls' record of 72 wins. But this was one of those rare nights when everything fell into place — the team was motivated after Sunday's loss, KG was motivated after Bargnani embarrassed him, and Rivers knew exactly what to do.
"Doc came at me," Garnett said. "He likes to see me off the chain at times, and I don't mind being that."
Garnett was fired up. Shaquille O'Neal was riding the adrenalin rush after a monster performance Wednesday against the Nets. Rajon Rondo was poised for a big comeback effort after missing a week with a hamstring injury. Everyone brought their A game, and the Celtics silenced the Raptors in a hurry — they hit every shot early, going up 19-5 in the blink of an eye, and they stayed in control late, leading by 20-plus by the end of the third quarter. The C's only won by nine, but it was a game they dominated from start to finish.
It all started with Garnett, who was on a mission to destroy Bargnani and the Raptors.
It wasn't just about defense. KG was big on the O — he got up 18 shots, his second-most all season, and made 10 of them. He was aggressive early and often, setting the tone for the Celtics' attack inside.
"It seemed like he had a lot of dunks tonight," Ray Allen noted. "He got close to the rim early, and he was slipping out of pick-and-rolls and he was able to get those lobs. So I think that got him some adrenaline early."
Garnett won't have that same adrenaline every night. But when he does, he's damn near impossible to beat.
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