Although they have had their issues at times, Kevin Garnett and Tim Duncan are in very similar situations as they reach their NBA golden years. Born less than a month apart in 1976, both seriously contemplated retirement over the summer before agreeing to return on three-year deals, stunning their teams.
They are both playing at a high level and have an opportunity to return to the All-Star Game after missing out last year. Matchups between the two are fascinating to watch because they resemble Ali-Frazier fights, two aging warriors with all the tricks, clashing with different styles.
The similarities are not lost on their coaches. Duncan was his vintage self in Wednesday’s 112-100 San Antonio win at TD Garden, scoring 20 points and pulling down 15 rebounds, more than the Celtics’ starters combined.
“He’s playing pretty much like he did last year,” Spurs coach Gregg Popovich said of Duncan, who entered Wednesday night’s game averaging 18 points and 10 rebounds. “I thought he played well enough to be on the All-Star team, actually. I thought that was a big mistake and I thought a lack of respect, for as well as he played last year.
“They could look in the mirror and see each other as far as the way they’ve handled their careers. Both of them have taken care of their bodies.
“In the summertime, they take care of themselves and each are very important to the basis of what each team does. Timmy’s been great that way, as has Kevin.”
There were reports about a conversation between the two that involved Garnett potentially joining the Spurs in free agency. But Garnett said he never seriously considered joining another team.
Asked to compare the two, Celtics coach Doc Rivers said, “Just put a mirror and tell them to look at it. They’re both extremely professional.
“They obviously do it differently. Kevin is more outward in his emotion and Tim is more inward. They both have the exact same mentality. They both are extremely tough.
“It’s amazing how much both of them care about winning. They’re both unselfish at times to a fault. It’s amazing how similar they are yet how different they act.”
The Celtics officially waived Darko Milicic, allowing him to remain in his native Serbia with his ill mother. Milicic played five minutes all season and didn’t emerge as the difference-maker at center that Rivers expected.
Milicic played extensively during the exhibition season, even grabbing nine rebounds with four blocks in a win over Emporio Armani Milano.
But the former lottery pick had dropped off since then, completely outplayed by Chris Wilcox, who returned from a back injury early in training camp to become the primary backup center.
Rivers wanted to make a breakthrough with Milicic, who had been a disappointment with his other clubs, but that will not happen.
“I would have liked to have that opportunity,” said Rivers, “but you know how I feel about all the other stuff outside about basketball. It’s more important.”
The Celtics were outrebounded for the ninth time in 12 games, as the Spurs won the battle, 41-25. Boston collected just one offensive rebound, a season low. The Celtics have been outrebounded on the offensive glass, 123-76, this season and haven’t collected more offensive rebounds than their opponent since opening night at Miami.
Rivers downplayed the lack of offense rebounds.
“Honestly, we shot 53 percent, there’s not going to be a lot of offensive boards. So I’m not that concerned by it,” he said. “They shot 58 percent and they had six. That is a number I rarely look at, offensive rebounds. Statistically it holds up. I can tell you, you don’t offensive rebound, you stop transition, you win more games than when you get offensive rebounds. I can guarantee you that on those stats.”
Paul Pierce, who sprained his right ankle Sunday against the Pistons, was in the lineup at small forward. He had 19 points but no rebounds . . . Fab Melo and Kris Joseph will make their NBADL debuts for Maine Friday when the Red Claws take on Canton. The Red Claws also feature training camp invitee Micah Downs and Jeremiah Rivers, the son of Doc, who is on the team’s injured list.