You could tell.
The two had been jostling for position -- pushing and shoving one another in the post -- midway through the fourth quarter of Friday night’s game.
So when Millsap caught the ball near the 3-point arc on the right wing, he had one thing on his mind -- and it didn’t involve passing.
Millsap drove to the basket. Garnett stayed with him the whole way.
The Hawks forward tried to attempt a reverse layup. But he never had a chance.
The Nets center emphatically blocked the shot and picked up the ball.
Garnett then smiled at Elton Brand, who gave him a shove as they were running toward the other end of the court. Both were issued technical fouls.
It was vintage KG: competitor, defensive wizard, intimidator.
Garnett checked out after that, having finished his evening with four points, 10 rebounds, an assist, a steal and a block in 18 minutes.
His third game back since returning from back spams -- like the previous two -- had been a great success.
“He’s been great,” Joe Johnson said. “He’s giving us everything he’s got in those minutes that he plays with: his leadership, making great passes, playing great defense and keeping guys in the right spots. He’s been doing it all year.”
Since returning to the lineup, Garnett has averaged 6.3 points, 7.3 rebounds and 2.7 assists on 64.3 percent shooting in 16 minutes. And while it’s only a small sample size, the Nets are 10.2 points per 100 possessions better defensively with their anchor on the floor over the past four games; He rested on Tuesday night against Miami.
“I think he looks great,” Nets coach Jason Kidd said. “I think his minutes have gone up, and he’s looked good out there. So we’ll see. Hopefully we can give a couple more minutes tomorrow, and keep going in the right direction.”
The ultimate goal is that Garnett will be healthy and able to contribute in the playoffs.
He’s well on his way.
“I’m progressing. I’m progressing,” he said. “And that’s the only priority here. Just getting back.”