Morning sports update: Doc Rivers explained why Kevin Garnett was such a unique Celtics superstar

"We needed a guy like that to come to the franchise, and he did that and it's still here."

Doc Rivers and Kevin Garnett in 2012.
Doc Rivers and Kevin Garnett in 2012. –AP Photo/Elise Amendola

On Thursday night, the Celtics beat the Clippers in a double-overtime thriller, 141-133. Jayson Tatum led the way for Boston, scoring 39 points.

Also on Thursday, Boston College women’s basketball won at the buzzer against Notre Dame, 56-55. Senior forward Emma Guy hit the game-winning layup before being mobbed by her teammates:

Doc Rivers tried to sum up what Kevin Garnett brought to the Celtics: In statistical terms, Kevin Garnett’s most impressive NBA seasons were in Minnesota with the Timberwolves prior to his time in Boston.

But Garnett’s most important contribution to the Celtics went beyond the boxscore. The 15-time All-Star brought a culture change to his new team after arriving in a 2007 blockbuster trade. His leadership, tenacity, and boundless competitiveness helped turn the Celtics back into an elite NBA organization.


No one had a better vantage point to witness Garnett’s impact than Doc Rivers, who coached Boston from 2004-2013. On Thursday, as the Celtics made the surprise announcement that Garnett’s No. 5 jersey would be retired, Rivers was also in town coaching the Clippers.

Asked about Garnett’s value to the team, Rivers had a fascinating response.

“I’ve often said about him, he’s the greatest superstar role player ever,” Rivers told reporters. “He was a superstar, but he played his role for the team anyway, somehow. I don’t know how he did that, but he did it.”

“He changed the culture of this franchise,” said Rivers. “He really did. We needed a guy like that to come to the franchise, and he did that and it’s still here. It hasn’t left since. That was all Garnett.”

Trivia: The Celtics’ starting five combined for 122 points in Thursday night’s win. That’s the most by any Celtics starting lineup in decades. Can you name the team’s starters the last time that happened?

(Answer at the bottom).

Hint: It was in 1988, and four of the starting five are now in the Hall of Fame.

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Steven Adams nailed this shot to close out the half for the Thunder:

“After the shot went in, I kind of blacked out,” Adams said of his accomplishment. He also noted that it wasn’t as much of a surprise as people think, since he’d won a team competition of similar shots the day before.

On this day: In 1980, the fledgling U.S. hockey team pulled off the first of its major upsets at the Lake Placid Olympics, thrashing the No. 2 ranked Czechoslovakian team, 7-3. After pulling off a dramatic equalizer in the first game against Sweden to steal a point, the major first-round matchup against the Czechs loomed.

The Americans started poorly, falling behind 1-0. But, in what would be an early indication of events to come later in the Olympics, the U.S. team was picked up by its captain, Mike Eruzione. The Winthrop native scored a quick tying goal. The game would also be tied at the end of the first period, 2-2.

From that point on, Herb Brooks’s team controlled the game. Though the highly-rated Czech team finished with more shots, it was U.S. skaters who created better goal-scoring chances. It was 4-2 at the end of the second, and the Americans pulled away in the third to complete the upset. True to the team’s balanced approach, six different scorers account for the seven goals.

“We dominated them completely,:” said Eruzione, summarizing the team’s growing confidence. “In every phase of the game.”


Toward the end of the game, with the contest essentially decided, frustrated Czech defenseman Jan Neliba illegally hit U.S. goalscorer Mark Johnson. Neliba’s forearm — which temporarily dislocated Johnson’s shoulder — produced a memorable soundbite, as the American television audience was formally introduced to Brooks’s no-nonsense mentality.

“You’re gonna eat that goddamn [stick], three,” Brooks shouted at Neliba (who wore the No. 3 jersey). The unfiltered soundbite elicited a nervous laugh from play-by-play announced Al Michaels.

With a win over their toughest first-round opponent, the path was open for American advancement into the medal round. Simultaneously, the Soviet Union continued its dismantling of competition in the first round’s other group. A 17-4 destruction of the Netherlands was highlighted by three short-handed Soviet goals during one five-minute penalty in the first period.

Daily highlight: Mattias Tedenby of HC Davos nailed one of the moves of the year.

Trivia answer: Larry Bird (39 points), Kevin McHale (27 points), Robert Parish (26 points), Danny Ainge (14 points), and Dennis Johnson (16 points).

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