Observations: KG's best night of new year


Observations and analysis after the Boston Celtics defeated the Washington Wizards 94-86 Sunday night at the Verizon Center in Washington, D.C.

AP Photo/Nick Wass

Kevin Garnett rang in the new year with his best performance of, well, the new year.

Garnett puts Wizards to bed

Celtics forward Kevin Garnett, fresh off his best game of the young season, used a postgame television interview to (hilariously) tell his young daughter to go to bed. We don't need things like parental instincts to remind us that Garnett is getting older. Now in his 17th NBA season, the 35-year-old Garnett has quite clearly been a little slow out of the gates, particularly on the heels of a shortened training camp, something he was outspoken in his disdain for. But any lingering worries about his early-season production will be diminished on the heels of Garnett tossing in a game-high 24 points (on 9-of-17 shooting) with nine rebounds and three assists in Sunday's win. He was spectacular, particularly in the fourth quarter when -- even though his shot wasn't falling -- he got to the line for four free throw attempts, which helped him score 10 points in the final frame (in a mere six-minute shift). After shooting just six free throws in the first four games, Garnett doubled his season total in Washington, showing how he was far more aggressive. Rivers told reporters after the game how Garnett is easy to coach because he constantly reminds Rivers to remind him to be more aggressive. Sunday night showed the benefits of what happens when Rivers is able to coax that out of him.

First triple-double of the year for Rondo

Celtics point guard Rajon Rondo started the new year off on the right foot, producing his 14th career triple-double with 18 points, 14 assists and 11 rebounds over 33:43. Rondo sometimes seems overhyped for matchups with other big-name point guards, but he was in complete control of the game from start to finish -- handing out six assists in the first quarter alone -- and winning this matchup with Washington's John Wall. After the game, Rivers admitted he had no clue Rondo had a triple-double, but knew he had quarterbacked a solid game, likening Rondo to a baseball catcher leading a pitcher through a strong performance. Rondo set a nice tone for Boston early on, fueling the Celtics to a double-digit lead that ballooned to 17 by intermission. When the Wizards rallied in the third quarter, he provided Boston's only energy (scoring 10 points while making all four of his field goal attempts and getting to the stripe for five free throw attempts). Maybe sensing the triple-double was near, Rondo ripped down six rebounds in the final quarter. The one encouraging small total in his box score: A mere three turnovers.

Uh oh, J.O. -- Hamstring tightens up in third quarter

Celtics center Jermaine O'Neal had his left hamstring tighten up on him late in the third quarter and did not return to action. Rivers noted after the game that trainer Eddie Lacerte said it would be best if O'Neal didn't have to go back in and Rivers made the decision at that moment not to reinsert him. Rivers said the team will "see what [O'Neal] can give us" on Monday when the teams meet again in Boston. Coming off perhaps his best outing in a Boston uniform in Friday's win over the Pistons, O'Neal chipped in eight points and three rebounds over 23 minutes on Sunday. He missed 58 games last season due to knee woes and sat out time in training camp that year because of initial hamstring issues. A thin-on-centers Celtics squad can ill afford for O'Neal to miss time and, more importantly, O'Neal needs to stay healthy to maintain his confidence and rhythm.

Loose Balls: Hot first-half defense led to 'cool' Celtics

The Wizards shot a mere 28.2 percent (11-of-39) in the first half. And despite building a 17-point halftime cushion behind arguably their best 24 minutes of defense of the season, the Celtics did their best to fumble it away in the third quarter. Rivers noted after the game how the team played what he calls "cool basketball," when style points become more important than fundamentals. ... The most disappointing aspect of letting the Wizards back in the game may have been that Boston couldn't rest its veterans more and give younger players extended floor time. Avery Bradley got nearly 10 minutes, but rookies JaJuan Johnson and E'Twaun Moore played little more than the final 99 seconds. ... Boston's bench, though on the court for part of Washington's rally, combined on 10-of-22 shooting for 22 points, a solid effort that got spread out (Brandon Bass tossed in a reserve-high eight points). ... Paul Pierce came back to earth a bit after a strong season debut, misfiring on six of his eight shots, while settling for nine points and six rebounds over 27:39. ... The Wizards got 38 points in the paint -- still a somewhat alarming number -- but Boston negated it by putting up the same number from that area of the floor. ... Sasha Pavlovic earned a DNP even as the team is still waiting for swingman Mickael Pietrus to be game-ready.