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For starters

Posted by Julian Benbow, Globe Staff  March 21, 2010 02:42 AM

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The entire sequence was a blur, and Kevin Garnett just tried to swing his hands through it and cause some trouble.

“It was going so fast,” Garnett said, thinking back to the second quarter of the Celtics 102-93 win over the Mavericks.


He came up with two steals in the span of seven seconds care of the stone hands of Erick Dampier, and it all started when Garnett broke up a pass from Jason Terry to Dampier.

“I guessed right,” Garnett said, of the first break up. He immediately looked up and tried to start a fast break. But as soon as he through the pass, he was cursing himself.

“I thought I saw Rondo,” he said. “I was saying, Man, ‘I just gave the ball up.’”

Jason Kidd jumped in front of it and the Mavs had another fast break. Kidd had three teammates with him, and chose to dump it to Dampier, which made Garnett’s eyes light up.

“I said, ‘Oh!’” Garnett said. “And then I guessed right again.”

Dampier bobbled it, Garnett came up with it and started another break that led to a Paul Pierce lay-up and Garnett let out a sigh of relief.

“I was kind of happy that sequence was over,” Garnett said.

His season-high five steals all came in the first half, and defensively, Garnett was the boogey man, popping up to spoil any Dallas rallies.

“I thought all night I was getting my hands on balls,” Garnett said. “I was anticipating a lot of passes and it worked out for me.”

"He made some great plays on the break," said Rajon Rondo. "He has great anticipation skills. He was like a guard. That’s what he’s capable of. He just hasn’t had a game like that."

Garnett shot just 3 of 9, but head coach Doc Rivers looked at his defensive energy as another reason to be optimistic.

“I keep seeing it every day, he’s getting better,” Rivers said. “His offense is starting to get better too, his balance on the post. But more just his feet. He’s moving his feet more, his hands are active ...  He’s getting back. He’s running. He’s beating people to the spot. All the things that people said he couldn’t do, he’s starting to do it.”

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It's not a strike, he says, it's more like a media vacation. Either way, Paul Pierce is letting his play speak for itself, coming up with his second 29-point performance in the past three games. Foul trouble wasn't an issue last night. In fact, with the Captain on the floor for 36 minutes, Doc Rivers found himself having to tell Pierce to look for his shot. He finished 10 for 17, knocking down 8 of his 10 free throws.

Rivers said:


He's starting to get his confidence. Right now, he's still searching, and I thought you could see it in the middle of quarters.

I got on him in a timeout because I thought he was looking to pass too much, which I don't think I've ever had to say that to Paul. 

I said, 'Just be aggressive. Just be who you are.' And he was that."


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Four straight wins. Two against quality Western Conference opponents on the road. It's progress for a team that's said repeatedly that they're building toward the playoffs. Ray Allen knocked down 7 of his 13 shots and 4 of his 8 3-pointers, going for 21 points. It's hard to talk about turning corners or hitting strides or finding rhythms with this team. It's even more difficult considering they've still got Utah to deal with on Monday. But on a trip where Doc Rivers said they could have won three or lost three, they've already taken two, and that's reason to be encouraged, Allen said. Not to mention, the team is healthy, and the Celtics are 35-12 when Allen, Garnett, Perkins, Pierce and Rondo all start. 

Allen said:

"You're always encouraged. Even when we lost a couple here and there. Yeah, we were disappointed and we were trying to figure out what to do. But confidence-wise, we just had to keep moving forward.

"So regardless what happens, every game is a different game because we're not playing the same opponent. We feel as though a lot of nights the opponent has been ourselves. So we just kind of stay encouraged no matter what happens as we go along and try to find a way to win every night."

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