By Brian Robb, CBS Boston
BOSTON (CBS) — The Celtics faced daunting odds Friday as they prepared to comeback from a 2-0 series hole on the road in Chicago. However, the team received some inspiration from an unlikely source prior to Game 3: former Celtic Kevin Garnett.
The future Hall of Famer recorded an inspirational message for his former franchise during the week, which made its way to the team through long-time team trainer Ed Lacerte. Isaiah Thomas and Avery Bradley both got a sneak preview of the message on Thursday and Thomas had the idea to play it for the team in the locker rroom before Game 3 in Chicago. It’s impact was apparent on the court immediately as the visitors jumped out to a 18-point first quarter lead, en route to a 104-87 win in Game 3.
“Everybody was kind of pumped up,” Bradley told reporters in Chicago after the game. “I almost felt like [Garnett] was in the locker room with me again.”
Garnett has spent the year working for TNT and on-and-off coaching for several teams (Milwaukee, LA Clippers) as he enjoys his first year of retirement. He’s always spoke fondly of his connections to Boston and didn’t hesitate to reach out to give his former team a lift in their time of need.
Bradley is the only member of the Celtic who played with Garnett during his six-year stint in Boston, but that didn’t lessen the impact of Garnett’s words to his teammates.
“He’s still part of this Celtics family,” Bradley explained. “For him to go out of his way to send us a message like that, that means a lot to all of us. Like I said, it was a reminder of Celtics family. We have to play a certain way because they are watching. There’s a respect, the way that we play, and we have to play hard. Every single time we step on the floor, we have to leave everything out there. That has to be our mindset.”
“To me, personally, it was everything,” Jae Crowder added of KG’s voice message. “It was just a little motivational speech. He said we looked like a team that wasn’t having fun. We looked like a team that wasn’t soaking the moment. We’ve just got to play for one another and play for the moment at hand, which is the playoffs, and have fun with it. Basically that’s all he was saying, with a little more KG into it.”
The end result for Boston was a performance that flipped the script from a disappointing Game 2 in Boston. Brad Stevens did his part to stem the tide, going with a smaller and more offensively minded starting lineup featuring Gerald Green instead of Amir Johnson. The adjustment produced more space for Isaiah Thomas to operate and opened up the floor for plenty of open 3s for the starters (all five made at least two 3-point field goals).
The Green also appeared much more connected and poised throughout the contest, as evidenced by their 34 assists on 41 made shots. They reduced their turnover number to 12 (below their season average), cutting down on the transition opportunities they handed to the Bulls constantly through the first two losses.
Ultimately, the win was just one small step in the challenging road to close out the series with four wins in five games. However, the C’s looked like their old selves again, a team we hadn’t see this postseason. For that, they have Kevin Garnett to thank.
Brian Robb covers the Celtics for CBS Boston and contributes to NBA.com, among other media outlets. You can follow him on Twitter @CelticsHub.