It was a meaningless game. The Boston Celtics already had clinched the NBA's best record and coach Doc Rivers was resting his starters for the entire fourth quarter last Tuesday night in Milwaukee.
But there was no rest for KG. There rarely is.
As his teammates relaxed on the bench, Garnett watched anxiously as the Celtics' subs blew a big lead then held on to beat the Bucks 107-104 in overtime.
"It was nerve-racking," he said. "You want your guys to play well. I was just trying to tell guys what I saw during timeouts. I was trying to keep energy high and morale up."
Even when Garnett isn't playing, he's into the game. Practices, pregame shootarounds, postgame news conferences the look is serious and intense.
And when the Celtics have big leads there have been plenty he rarely cracks a smile.
"You see how focused he is, and it's like sometimes you've got to tell him, 'Hey man, enjoy it, too,' " Paul Pierce said. "He's on the sideline, we're up 25 points, 2 minutes to go, getting mad at people. I'm like, 'Relax, this game's in the bag. Enjoy it.' "
Maybe Garnett won't win his second most valuable player award. Most stats favor Kobe Bryant, LeBron James and Chris Paul. But if there were an award for Most Intense Player, the leader most responsible for the Celtics' record turnaround would have all the qualifications.
He is the best player on the team with the NBA's best record. He's led the Celtics to the biggest single-season turnaround in league history, breaking San Antonio's record 36-game improvement. And he's the inspiration for a hard-working team that leads the NBA in point differential and lowest opponents' field goal percentage.
"Look at the team. Look at the team's record. Look at the turnaround," Ray Allen said. "I think he's probably the more unselfish guy in the NBA (of the top MVP candidates) that's made his team better. It's not just the offensive perspective."
Last season the Celtics were 24-58, their second worst record for a franchise that has an NBA best 16 championships. After trading for Garnett in the offseason, they are 64-16 after a 99-89 win Saturday night over Atlanta, their likely first-round playoff opponent.
"He has a great deal of intensity and I think his intensity sort of carries over to other people," former Celtics great John Havlicek said. "Maybe that desire and intensity is somewhat like a Dave Cowens."
Cowens was named MVP in 1972-73, the season the Celtics had their best record, 68-14.
Should Garnett get the award?
"What's our record?" coach Doc Rivers said. "That's all I have to say."
But Garnett has much more talent around him than the other top contenders. Pierce starred on mediocre Celtics teams for nine seasons. Allen was obtained from Seattle on June 28, making Boston more attractive to Garnett.
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