BOSTON -- Celtics forward Kevin Garnett missed two games during a five-game road trip before the All-Star break when he left the team to deal with a personal issue. After spearheading Boston to victory in the first two games of the second half of the season, including Wednesday's 102-96 triumph over the visiting Milwaukee Bucks, Garnett admitted to battling through some off-court issues while trying to steer this wayward ship back on course.
"I’m going through some personal problems as of late, but I’m good and I’m back," Garnett said. "And I’m looking at life a little different. I'm beat up and all that, but I'm just giving everything I have -- nothing less than that."
Garnett helped Boston steal a win it nearly fumbled away Tuesday night in Cleveland, then bounced back on Wednesday to register a game-high 25 points to go along with 10 rebounds in another gritty triumph.
But aside from a slow start from a shortened training camp that he's often lamented, Garnett has been astoundingly consistent this season at a time when most expected the soon-to-be 36-year-old's production to decline.
"It really has been all year. You look at his numbers and it’s amazing," Celtics coach Doc Rivers said. "[Critics say] 'Oh, Kevin is this' ... it’s all you hear. And no one looks at his numbers. And I’ll tell you where no one really looks is his numbers per minutes played. You know? It’s not like Kevin is playing a ton of minutes, and he’s still putting up numbers. He’s just been a phenomenal guy to coach, I can tell you that, every day.”
Asked if he's surprised at how durable Garnett has been this season, missing just one game due to injury (a sore left hip), Rivers elicited laughter by passing on the opportunity to comment so as not to jinx him.
But that didn't stop Rivers from gushing about what a healthy Garnett brings.
"He's a wonderful guy, he comes to work every day," Rivers said. "Even on the days he doesn't play well, you know he's going to try. Everything that comes out of his mouth, toward the team, is always the right thing. It might not be well-said in the way he says it, but it's always the right thing. And he's as pure as I've ever coached or been around to his team. I know he's difficult for [the media] at times, that's who he is. He reminds me of Patrick Ewing in that way. You don't get to see who he really is. But I'm telling you, for a team, you couldn't have a better guy in the locker room. It's amazing."
You could say Garnett is one of a kind. Which is how he less-than-subtly described himself. Emerging to meet reporters wearing Chrome Hearts glasses (thick black frames with fleur-de-lis highlights), it was noted how fashion eyewear has become popular around the NBA (and beyond).
"I’m not trying to be like somebody else,” barked Garnett. “You won’t ever see that. There’s only one Garnett."
A handful of other quick-hit thoughts from Wednesday's game:
* BACK AT .500: With the win, Boston improved to 17-17 and Rivers admitted it was a bit of a relief to see the win column match the loss column. “I’m just glad we’re back to .500," Rivers said. "And we’ve won the first two after the break and both games were grind games. Our guys are buying into that, they’re starting to understand this is a grind in the second half. We didn’t play well in the first half [of Wednesday's game] ... We stuck in it. We stuck together, stayed in it, and that’s what we have to do.”
* A SWEAT GIFT FOR A FAN: Mickael Pietrus was putting on some warm-up gear after a second-half stint on the floor when a young fan behind the Boston bench caught his attention. Pietrus playfully pulled the gum from his mouth and motioned as if asking the boy if he wanted it. The kid shook his head and pointed to the towel in front of Pietrus. Pietrus obliged, picking up the towel, but didn't deliver it until he wiped his sweat-covered head, then flung it to the child (who couldn't have been more thrilled with the laundry-ready gift).
* DOOLING LEADS THE BENCH: After missing 16 games in the first half of the season, it's been a rough go thus far for veteran combo guard Keyon Dooling. Even still, the team is clearly trying to get him going. He had an unremarkable 11 minutes in Cleveland Tuesday night, but responded well Wednesday, chipping in eight points, including a highlight-worthy reverse jam on a baseline drive in the second half. Dooling also hit a key end-of-the-first-half 3-pointer to help take a bite out of Milwaukee's halftime cushion and give Boston some confidence that turned into a third-quarter rally.
* GARNETT GETS HIS FIRST TECH: Garnett earned his first technical foul of the season when he and Milwaukee's Larry Sanders got whistled for a double technical for some jawing midway through the second quarter. Garnett seemed incredulous at something the second-year forward said on the court and the two jawed before teammates and officials separated them. "Sometimes you need a little swift kick in the ass," said Garnett. "I haven’t had a tech all year, have I? It shook up the doghouse, as we say. I liked that.”
* KEY STATS IN FOCUS: Offensive rebounds and turnovers were a point of emphasis for Boston coming into Wednesday's game as the Bucks have the sort of poor-shooting-but-opportunistic offense that thrives off those two areas. Milwaukee turned 16 offensive rebounds into 17 second-chance points, but Boston was actually better, parlaying 18 offensive caroms into 21 points. ... Boston won the battle on the glass overall, 52-49. ... The Celtics committed 14 turnovers leading to 12 points, but Milwaukee gave the ball away 13 times for 16 points.