Kevin Garnett bumped and jostled Dirk Nowitzki off his spots in a superb defensive effort tonight, holding the Mavericks superstar to 11 field-goal attempts in 38 minutes. Garnett came up one stop short, though, as Nowitzki got off a runner with 5.1 seconds left that put Dallas up, 88-85. Still, it was a remarkable defensive effort for a player who has looked a step slow at times this season, especially considering the matchup difficulties that Nowitzki can provide.
“I just tried to make tough for him,” said Garnett. “A player like Dirk, man, that man has like a million moves. I just tried to play the consistencies and just make it tough for him. He made a hell of a shot.”
Garnett credited his teammates for slowing down the Mavs sharpshooter in what ended up a 90-85 Dallas win.
“I don’t play Dirk by myself, I play him with the other four guys out there on the floor,” said Garnett. “We don’t do anything individual other than shower here. Other than that, we do things together.”
The Celtics have struggled to a 4-5 record this season, and Garnett stressed to the media that the team is working hard to correct it. He also stressed that they can’t just flip a switch.
“This is not easy,” said Garnett. “I know we made it look easy in the past. It’s not easy by far.”
UPDATE, Thurs, 5:53 p.m. Watching the replay of the game and Garnett gave up another play to Nowitzki that might be Garnett’s worst defensive effort since he arrived in Boston. At the 10:26 mark in the fourth, Garnett fails to box out Dirk on a jumper by Lamar Odom, allows Dallas’s 11th offensive rebound, and stands like a statue as Dirk spins by him for two.
— Garnett had plenty of praise for Celtics point guard Rajon Rondo, who finished with 24 points and 7 assists. Rondo made 8 of 12 free throws.
“Rajon’s amazing, period,” said Garnett. “Talking about big things are coming, big things are here. He’s keeping us alive every night, we’ve just got to make sure we follow his lead.”
Doc Rivers agreed with Garnett that it’s time for Rondo to take on a bigger role.
“I think this is his team right now,” said Rivers. “We need him to be aggressive. We need him to be a scorer and attack. That’s a change, but that’s what it is right now until everybody else gets it going, because they are not.”