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Celtics coach Doc Rivers compared Kevin Garnett's minutes to a 7-Eleven cell phone.BOSTON -- Boston Celtics center Kevin Garnett logged 32 minutes, 5 seconds of floor time during Friday's 108-100 triumph over the Oklahoma City Thunder. That's five seconds more than coach Doc Rivers had allotted, but it took all of Rivers' will power not to splurge even more, especially when the Thunder made a spirited fourth-quarter charge.
Rivers remains adamant that there's a very narrow line the Celtics are walking with the minutes played by 36-year-old Garnett this season. Rivers offered up the best analogy he could muster to explain why he forced himself to stick to that 32-minute plan on Friday.
"[Garnett is] like a cell phone that you buy at the 7-Eleven," said Rivers. "You've got 32 minutes, and if you went 33, then the phone would have been dead. We had to manage his minutes."
Through 13 games this season, Garnett is averaging a career-low 28.6 minutes per game and Rivers has shaved 2½ minutes off his average from last season. Only once this year has Rivers previously exceeded 31 minutes of total floor time, utilizing Garnett for 35 minutes in an overtime win over Washington.
Rivers told his staff about the 32-minute limit before Friday's game, and even that seemed like pushing it.
"I know it’s hard," said Rivers. "Going into the game, I told our coaches that 32 is our number for Kevin tonight. Two minutes extra -- because I thought we were going to need it. [The Thunder went] small early and, it’s funny, the last two teams, it’s like no one wants to go small against us, because they look at Jeff [Green] and Paul [Pierce], and it’s almost like they are avoiding small lineups. So we prepared for small, but [Oklahoma City] didn’t go to it until that one stretch. Then they started making a run with it and, let’s be honest here, right when we had to take Kevin out, but we had no choice. Gotta do it."
The Celtics were up 11 when Garnett went to the bench with 7:56 remaining in Friday's game. That lead dipped to seven before Rivers put Garnett back in with 5:43 to play. Over that final stretch, Garnett chipped in a big basket, six free throws, and three rebounds while preventing a Thunder rally.
Garnett finished with 18 points on 5-of-11 shooting with nine rebounds and four assists. And, maybe most importantly, he logged only 32 minutes.
Garnett likes having a fourth-quarter audience.
"I wouldn't say we're a fourth-quarter team, but we are a team that's trying to be better," he said. "I think tonight we were aggressive in the fourth quarter and made plays. I thought we hit our free throws when we had to, and the conclusion was we won the game. So, this is a building process."