Wizards are no match for Garnett, Celtics
It’s as if Kevin Garnett is on a revenge tour, going around the NBA and checking off the names of anybody who dunked on him, doubted, or trash-talked the Celtics forward last season when he was coming back from knee surgery.
And after the battles they had last spring, Washington’s Andray Blatche, of course, was on the list.
Garnett got in Blatche’s head during a close victory in March, using a lip-to-cheek maneuver to derail the Wizards forward’s 23-point night. But when they met a month later, Blatche was tougher — putting up 31 points and 11 rebounds in a Wizards victory that sent a message to Garnett.
Garnett filed it away until last night, at TD Garden, when the Wizards returned. Blatche’s numbers (10 points, three rebounds) didn’t tell the story as much as one play in the third quarter when Garnett grabbed a pass along the baseline, spun off Blatche and hoisted up a shot.
All Blatche could do to restrain Garnett was tug at his shorts.
Garnett scored 18 points (on 9-of-11 shooting), grabbed seven rebounds, and the Celtics dominated the Wizards, 114-83, before a sellout crowd of 18,624.
“This team gave us problems last year, and we haven’t forgotten that — I haven’t forgotten that,’’ Garnett said. “All night I could hear [Wizards assistant] Sam Cassell’s voice about how they’re young and how they’re going to come at us and all that stuff. This team gave us problems last year and we made note of it.’’
Garnett, though, had Blatche on his radar. Along with Chicago’s Joakim Noah, Milwaukee’s Andrew Bogut, and Detroit’s Charlie Villanueva, he has become a target for younger forwards, and he’s more than aware of it.
“My mentality is to play each person in front of me the same,’’ Garnett said. “I’m not trying to be your buddy. I’m not trying to be your friend. I’m very to the point. I couldn’t care less about what type of name you’re trying to make off of me. That’s what it is. It’s competition. If you’re not out here trying to defeat me, I’m figuring why are you out here. I’m understanding that.’’
Last night’s beating was almost a foregone conclusion. The Celtics were coming off three days’ rest after an ego-boosting four-game road trip, they were getting Delonte West back from a 10-game suspension, and the Wizards were playing their second game in two nights without No. 1 draft pick John Wall.
The Celtics put all five starters in double figures, and only Rajon Rondo played more than 30 minutes with the game well in hand in the fourth quarter.
Rondo collected 13 assists as the Celtics shot a season-high 65.8 percent from the field. Paul Pierce had a game-high 23 points (10 of 16) and Shaquille O’Neal made 6 of 7 shots for 13 points and six rebounds. West had 12 points, 5 rebounds, and 4 assists in his debut.
The Celtics have had big leads in other games this season, but last night they poured it on and didn’t let up. Gilbert Arenas replaced Wall in the starting lineup but hit just 2 of 7 3-pointers and had only 9 points and one assist.
Celtics coach Doc Rivers had no problem seeing Garnett get some payback.
“Players have memories,’’ Rivers said. “I don’t think the game as far as them beating us last year had a lot to do with this game, honestly. It was one game. I think we’re far more concerned about us and improving. Individually, when a guy plays well on you, you want to shut that off as soon as possible. Otherwise he gets confidence on you and now you have to deal with it.
“It’s not a bad thing, since [Garnett’s] a Hall of Famer and he’s been doing it for his whole career. I think he has a checklist. He just wants to be the best and he doesn’t want the guy that he’s playing against to play with him. That’s who he is. He’s built that way.’’
It’s part of the cycle, Garnett said. When he came into the league in 1995, he was hunting for heads the same way the newer generation is now.
“When you give young teams confidence, anything can happen,’’ Garnett said. “Hell, I was young once. I played Karl Malone and some of the other, older guys. I was just as geeked and just as excited to play against them. So I anticipate people, some of the young guys to be just like that against not just me, but Shaq, Paul, Ray [Allen]. Same thing. It’s what it is.’’