Celtics notebook

Garnett’s feat a real grabber

By Frank Dell’Apa
Globe Staff / March 7, 2012
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The Celtics were outrebounded, 57-38, by the Houston Rockets in a 97-92 overtime win Tuesday night at TD Garden. But Kevin Garnett’s 13 rebounds moved him into 12th place on the all-time NBA list with 13,100, one ahead of Shaquille O’Neal.

“I haven’t checked my phone yet but I looked and my light is blinking very rapidly,’’ Garnett said. “So that means that I got a couple of messages, probably from the big fella [O’Neal].

“History is history. I’m very fortunate to be in a position to be a part of NBA history. It’s always been a big deal for me to leave a legacy or leave some footprints, or some type of mark on the game. To play along with the best, if not one of the greatest, big men to ever play the game is more than a pleasure, to be in the same category, if not on the same list. I’m more than honored.’’

The Celtics rallied from a 10-point second-half deficit.

“I didn’t even know we were down 10 to be honest,’’ Garnett said. “I just know we wasn’t playing very well as far as rhythm. I think once we got out of some of our random stuff and started running our stuff, setting picks, we got more aggressive taking stuff to the basket vs. settling for jump shots.

“Then I thought we got into a nice rhythm and it started on the defensive end. We started getting some stops, started gaining confidence from there.’’

Back to old days

Rockets coach Kevin McHale is not offering advice to the Celtics. But he believes the team’s current stars are in better physical shape than the Celtics’ Big Three of the late 1980s and early ’90s.

“Getting old in the NBA is not for the meek or the mild,’’ McHale said before the game.

McHale and Larry Bird began to slow down soon after the Celtics won the 1986 title. But the Celtics did not go into rebuilding mode until it was too late. Now, Celtics president of basketball operations Danny Ainge is faced with a similar scenario with Ray Allen, Garnett, and Paul Pierce.

“It’s tough, because your mind is as sharp as it’s ever been,’’ McHale said. “Sometimes, athletically-wise, you just can’t do some of the things you could, or maybe injury-wise, or stuff like that.

“But, for the most part, Kevin, Paul, and Ray have been able to stay fairly healthy. I think they’re playing better than we did. I think at this point of our careers, we were all beaten down and had injuries and had a lot of other stuff going on. It was hard to deal with but, look, it happens to everybody and it’s just part of the game.

“If you’re honest with yourself - it depends if you’re delusional or not. You wake up in the middle of the night and go, ‘I suck,’ you know. But some people can’t do that.

“There are nights when you played your best and it’s like, ‘That’s all I got.’ I never appreciated, you know, enough, guys who just ground themselves to a nub and got little accomplished until I became one of those guys and it was like, ‘It’s hard out here.’

“Because playing NBA basketball is fun. It’s not hard, it’s fun. It’s just the competition’s fun, playing hard’s fun. You go out and play hard, you get things accomplished.’’

McHale’s opinion of these Celtics?

“Danny will make the right decision,’’ McHale said.

Stiemsma contributes

Jermaine O’Neal (wrist) remains out, but the Celtics have otherwise regained health. Greg Stiemsma filled in at center, scoring 8 points in a 13-minute first-half stint against the Rockets.

“I was going to go with him in the second half but I thought we had a good flow, so I didn’t,’’ coach Doc Rivers said of Stiemsma.

“You know, it’s funny, sometimes you’re almost protective of your young guys,’’ added Rivers. “You don’t want to mess up his good game, in some ways. I’m thinking, he’s going to have to play some minutes [Wednesday night at Philadelphia] and his confidence had to be high and it should be good tomorrow.’’

Ready for Sixers

The Celtics moved within a game of Atlantic Division leader Philadelphia. “This is definitely a division rival that we are going to have to overtake, and, seeing as it’s going to be important going into the playoffs,’’ Pierce said. “If we win our division, I think we will get a top four seed, regardless. So, these are important games.’’ . . . The Celtics’ rally in a 119-104 loss to Oklahoma City last month seemed to help bond the team, Rivers said. “I think it did help,’’ he said. “I just thought we kind of had enough. There’s nothing you can do about the injury part. But I thought our guys just fought and you could see the spirit of the team just rising, and that was just great for a coach.’’

Frank Dell’Apa can be reached at

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