Kevin Garnett displayed his value to the Celtics again in a 106-100 loss to the Philadelphia 76ers Friday night.
With Garnett on the floor, the Celtics have outscored their five opponents by 9 points. With Garnett on the bench, the Celtics have been outscored by 29 points.
“Nothing’s happening right [without Garnett],” guard Rajon Rondo said. “Just chaos. Just got to do a better job when Kevin’s off the floor . . . When Kevin’s going out, things change, and the past couple games it’s carrying over. We’ve got to take the challenge as a team and find a way to stop those type of runs.”
Garnett, who had 19 points and 10 rebounds in 31 minutes (just above his season average), was not discouraged by the result.
“I think it’s all defense, we’re a defensive team,” Garnett said.
“Right now, we have a decision. At points, we have lack of communication and all the other things that come with it. You’re going to make some mistakes. I thought we made some progress in some areas but, collectively, we have to all do it together.
“But, you know, these are the hard days and you see who’s with you.
“Practice fixes a lot of indecision — still got some guys who don’t really understand our system. But practice time and repetition, we get those things. Right now, it’s a grind, these are grind days right here.
“No one said this thing was going to be easy. Sometimes the darker days are the harder days. It shows who’s willing to fight, be in the hole with you. This is showing a lot.”
Coach Doc Rivers said the team has improved.
“I thought they were great, I thought they competed,” Rivers said. “I thought, you know, we missed layups, we missed a lot of good things. And you can see the frustration. So, that’s human. That kind of stuff doesn’t bother me at all.”
Rivers on Jeff Green, who struggled with a 1-for-5 shooting night: “It’s a dilemma, but he’s going to be a good player for us this year. And sooner than later, I’m hoping. We’ve just got to unlock him.
“Right now, he’s just absolutely frustrated. You can see it in his play. That’s on all of us, it’s not just on Jeff. Jeff’s the easy target right now. Jeff’s part of this team, just like everyone else.”
Rivers took note that the Lakers gave coach Mike Brown less time than he received before being fired by the Magic in 2003.
Rivers departed 11 games into the 2003-04 season. Brown lasted five games before being fired on Friday.
“Beat my record,” Rivers said before the Celtics played the 76ers. “Obviously, I think it’s awful. I thought mine was awful, too, by the way. But five games into the season, that’s hard to believe, when guys are injured. I’m assuming, I didn’t pay much attention, but I don’t think Dwight [Howard] played much in preseason, or Kobe [Bryant]. But that’s their mess, I just feel for Mike.”
The Magic had lost 10 straight at the time Rivers was fired. The next season, he guided the Celtics to a playoff berth.
“I was kind of relieved, at that time,” Rivers said of the firing. “I kind of felt like that was coming, eventually. It was only talked about every day.
“You know, I don’t think people ever understand — I’m sure you have friends who lose their job — but when it’s done publicly, you have kids in school and they have to hear that stuff every day, and I don’t think people get that, where our job is public. All four of my kids were in school and they had to hear it every day and kids aren’t very nice to kids.
“I didn’t think that much about myself, I was more concerned about my kids. When it happens that early, at least in my case, it was probably thought about that summer but they just never got around to doing it. When you start out slow, then, all right, let’s do it.”
Asked about Brown’s firing, 76ers coach Doug Collins responded: “Tough business. I told my coaches, if your only failure in the NBA is getting fired as a coach, you’ve lived a pretty good life. I’m not going to be one to judge [Brown’s firing]. I’ve been fired three times. You’re asking the wrong guy.”
With 20 assists Friday night, Rondo hiked his league-leading average to 14 per game. And with an improved shooting stroke this year, he’s averaging 15.6 points while connecting on 51.6 percent of his field goal attempts.
“It’s going in,” Rivers said of Rondo’s outside shot. “That’s important, because that makes you shoot the next one and the next one and the next one. But when you’ve had problems it doesn’t take but one bad thing to take you back.
“He believes in it, he’s looking for it now. That’s the difference between all the other years and this year. When he’s coming off pick and rolls now, he’s actually looking for the jump shot. The point guard position, when you come in the league you usually don’t shoot well, you’re thinking about getting guys involved.
“Point guards in general, they don’t think they should shoot, and then if you’re not a great shooter it’s even worse. Rondo’s had to deal with that but you’ve got to give him credit, he’s put in a lot of work.”
Collins also had pregame praise for Rondo: “The guy’s a great player. First of all, he’s competitive as can be. He’s got a great feel for the game . . . That’s all the growth process, and you know he’s an amazing player. I’ve got a lot of respect for that young guy.”Frank Dell’Apa can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.