KG gets to play in the dark

BOSTON -- Celtics coach Doc Rivers is doing his best to adhere to playing Kevin Garnett in five-minute bursts this season. But the old fella looked so spry Sunday against the Memphis Grizzlies, Rivers couldn't help but indulge.

"We gave him one extra minute," Rivers said with a smile. "He was feeling good and it’s nice to see."

Garnett matched a season-high by putting up 24 points on efficient 9-of-12 shooting and added nine rebounds over 32 minutes, 52 seconds of action. The 35-year-old Garnett, who was slow out of the gates at the start of the 2011-12 season and lamented a shortened training camp, has been increasingly active on both ends of the floor and helped fuel Boston to a breezy 98-80 triumph Sunday at TD Garden.

"Listen, it’s still a kids’ game," said Rivers. "[Garnett] was having a ball playing today and you don’t want to tell him he has to come in because the lights aren't on. So we let him play in the dark a little bit.”

Garnett showcased his full range Sunday. Beyond a fourth-quarter bunny, four of his buckets came from 8-9 feet, two more came from his mid-range sweetspot, and -- of course -- he drilled his third 3-pointer in as many games with a triple from the right wing midway through the third quarter.

"Doc was yelling at me today -- shoot, shoot, shoot, shoot," said Garnett. "Finally, I just shot the 3 and said, ‘Huh! Is that what you want!?’"

Actually, if Garnett keeps hitting every 3-pointer he hoists, Rivers won't argue.

"Well, he's shooting it well," said RIvers. "I mean, it's nice. It gives us another option at the end of the game."

Then Rivers thought about that declaration for a moment before adding, "Don't tell him I said that."

Don't worry, Doc. Garnett isn't in the mood to talk about 3-pointers much anymore, offering a playful and hilarious rant about his recent success beyond the arc after Sunday's game.

He'd much rather talk about the defense. After all the early season struggles at that end of the floor, Boston's vocal leader is very encouraged by the Celtics' progress after winning four straight and eight of their last nine overall.

"I think we’ve been winning games as of late with our defense," said Garnett. "We’re turning up the heat defensively, man. It’s causing turnovers and leading to easy baskets, offensive flow, etcetera, etcetera. I’ve always said we’re a defensive team that can score the ball and I think we’re getting back to that.

"The question as of late has been, 'Are you guys back?' I don’t believe we are. Because of practice time and the schedule, it’s been hard to create a rhythm. But for the most part, defensively, we have a very strong rhythm that we trust, and we’re back to being talkative as a team and it’s leading to easy baskets and better offensive plays. It’s still a work in progress, but I think we’re pretty happy with what’s going on lately."

And the Celtics can be happy with what they've gotten from Garnett. For all those lamenting his advanced age and inconsistent play at the start of the season, Garnett has been the rock on this team, the only player that hasn't missed a game (and the only starter that hasn't missed at least three). What's more, Garnett tops the team in minutes played (703).

So what's an extra minute here and there?