(Fernando Medina/NBAE via Getty Images)
Every morning, we compile the links of the day and dump them here… highlighting the big storyline. Because there's nothing quite as satisfying as a good morning dump.
The lingering image here of Saturday afternoon was Kevin Garnett calling for the ball and willingly going into physical battle inside with Dwight Howard and Dwight Howard’s biceps. The more recent model KG has shied away from such confrontations, but he was different when he showed up this season. Christmas Day was just the latest giant step, and, for the Celtics, it was a gift that could give them so much more.
Garnett made 10-of-14 shots on the way to 22 points against the Magic. He had four steals. He was the only Celt to shoot 50 percent or better; the rest of the lads were a combined 18-for-67 (26.9 percent).
“He was great in the post for us,” Rivers said of Garnett. “You can tell the difference in Kevin this year and last year. Last year, we would have never posted Kevin on Dwight Howard because he just couldn’t get away. This year we were looking for that matchup, and it didn’t bother us.
“That just tells you how much Kevin has improved health-wise in a year.”
“It’s hard to say his intensity level was higher, but he really wanted it," said Jermaine O'Neal. "He wanted it in that low post almost every single time. That just talks about his willingness to want to take over the game and make things happen in that low post area.”
It didn't take us long to realize Kevin Garnett had regained his explosiveness this season. It was most obvious on the boards and his increased rebounding stats prove this is no figment of our imagination.
But Saturday was the first time we saw KG aggressively attack in the post and deliver (against elite competition, too). Hell… even during the 2008 championship season, Garnett was criticized for his lack of post presence.
Like Jermaine intimated, it's impossible to say KG is more focused and more intense. But his hunger for another championship is off the charts. If he's able to stay healthy for the remainder of this season… you all know where I'm going with this.
Related: Celtics Blog – Garnett key down stretch vs Orlando
On Page 2, the Celtics never dig too deep a hole.
The Celtics' eight-point loss Saturday in Orlando matched its largest margin of defeat this season (tying an eight-point loss to Cleveland on Oct. 27). In five losses this season, the Celtics' average margin of defeat is a mere 4.8 points. Boston is giving itself a chance to win every game thanks in large part to avoiding large deficits.
According to Elias Sports Bureau, the Celtics' largest deficit in any game this season was 14 points (during an 89-87 loss to Dallas on Nov. 8). The only other NBA team that hasn't trailed by as many as 15 points this season is the Mavericks (Dallas trailed the Nuggets by a season-high 13 points in a 103-92 loss).
The Celtics spotted Orlando a 13-point lead to stat Saturday's game, but still rallied ahead (leading by as much as 12 later in the game).
You gotta attribute this stat to the Celtics depth. And their unwavering commitment to defense.
The rest of the links:
Globe – Robinson a work in progress | CSNNE – Robinson trying to be himself in new position | South Coast – Will Celtics wind up in post holiday dumps again? | Worcester Telegram – Green face even tougher streak ahead |