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Irish Coffee: Kevin Garnett, Cake Boss of the Celtics

05.07.12 at 10:27 am ET
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In the preseason, tortillas were Kevin Garnett‘s preferred metaphor for cooking up the main course that was to be the 2011-12 regular-season Celtics. In case you missed it, here was his recipe on Media Day in December.

“Timing is everything, and chemistry isn’t something that you just don’t throw in the frying pan and mix it up with another something, and throw something on top of that, and then fry it up, put it in a tortilla, put it in the microwave, heat it up and give it to you, and expect it to taste good. For those who can cook, y’all know what I’m talking about. If y’all don’t know what I’m talking about and can’t cook, then this doesn’t concern you.”

Now, it’s time for dessert, and Garnett is baking the cake that is to be the 2012 postseason Celtics.

“I always like to use baking a cake as an example,” said Garnett. “Nothing’s going to come out of the first two minutes. You have to sit there and wait on it, for y’all who know how to bake. Some of y’all don’t know how to bake, but don’t worry about it. Ask your mothers and fathers or something — someone who knows how to bake. But it’s very similar to that. You have to give it time for it to turn into what it’s going to be. Time tells everything when the results come, and I’m just glad we’re in a nice rhythm right now.”

Regardless of the recipe, Garnett’s point is clear: This Celtics team, the one that destroyed the Hawks by 22 points in Game 4, isn’t the NBA’s version of a Hot Pocket, quickly made and easily consumed. What you saw Sunday night has been marinating for months, ripe for the pressure cooker that is professional playoff basketball.

Kevin Garnett and his veteran Celtics teammates know the recipe for postseason success. (AP)

At one point in the 101-79 masterpiece, even during a run when the Celtics led by as much as 37 points, Greg Stiemsma‘s voice echoed into the rafters once the Garden crowd had grown quiet from bringing the noise. Stiemer’s voice, one that stewed quietly in the NBADL last season, could be heard calling out defensive schemes.

“When you talk, everybody is in tune — what we call initiated,” said Garnett. “You can’t use the excuse that you didn’t hear it or you didn’t know when guys are talking fluently, loudly. We have a very loud building, so you have to say things continuously over and over. Sometimes the guards give us crap from a big man standpoint for us not talking loud, but we try to say it repeatedly.

“It helps the guy,” he added. “It gives him confidence that he can guard the guy in front of him. Everybody’s been on an island, when you’re 1-on-1 with a guy, so you try to put yourself in that perspective and in that guy’s shoes and help him out, especially when you can.”

Celtics coach Doc Rivers and captain Paul Pierce called the victory “the best we’ve played this series.” Forget that, though, because it was the best the C’s have played all season. The game was over by the end of the first quarter, when the Celtics forced eight turnovers, shot 66.7 percent and took a 32-19 lead.

It had the feel of the 2008 first-round series between these same two teams, when the Celtics won all four home games by margins of 23, 19, 25 and 34 points. That team, in case you don’t remember, won the NBA title.

“I just knew that when we went over schemes and some of the new stuff that we wanted to correct that we were all locked in,” said Garnett. “Sometimes, man, individually we kind of get a little dysfunctional at times, but for the most part everybody was real communicative in what we were talking about. Guys were giving tips.

“I don’t like bringing up some of the past, but it was similar to some of the things we’ve done in the past. Obviously, this is a new group, new guys, deeper — and I say that as far as experience — but there was a lot of dialogue today. You could tell going through the layup lines, when we came in here, guys were focused in, and you could feel it. Not only were we just like that, but we carried it over to the court, so that’s big.”

From the leaders — Rajon Rondo‘s double-double (20 points, 16 assists) and Pierce’s shooting (24 points, 10-13 FG) — all the way down the line to the surprising contributions of Keyon Dooling (10 points) and Mickael Pietrus‘ defensive effort on Joe Johnson (9 points), it was a total team effort and all those other cliches.

“They’re just running the plays way more harder than we are,” said Hawks forward Josh Smith (15 points, 5-13 FG). “Whatever play is called, you know, Ray Allen is running off screens 100 miles per hour, Paul Pierce is finding a way to get open, the bigs are setting screens, getting the guards open.

“We have to try to duplicate what they do,” he added. “We have to try to get open. They’re trying so hard for Joe not to catch the ball. They’re being real physical with him, so we have to be able to match their physicality and be able to try to return the favor a little bit, see if they like it and stop being so passive.”

But that Celtics recipe wasn’t developed overnight. It can’t be replicated by Tuesday. It’s been reworked over the course of this five-year window, passed down to everyone from the veteran line cooks of the NBA world like Dooling and Pietrus to the young waitstaff in Stiemsma and Avery Bradley. It’s even had to be tweaked since that Media Day, when thoughts of Garnett as a center and Allen as a Sixth Man seemed ludicrous.

“We have our schemes down,” said Garnett. “Although we may not shoot the ball well on some nights, we like to say that we hang our hat on the defensive end. These last couple games, that’s where our focus has been.”

“We had a lot of fun,” added Bradley. “It’s fun playing the right way, playing the Celtic way, and that’s what we did.”

After their most complete performance of the season, these Celtics are enjoying themselves, especially since snaring a 3-1 series lead and facing the possibility of home court advantage in the Eastern Conference semifinals against the 76ers, themselves owners of a 3-1 series edge against the top-seeded Bulls.

Anything beyond that is the cherry on top of Garnett’s postseason dessert.

(Have a question, concern or conception for the next Irish Coffee? Send a message to @brohrbach on Twitter.)

Read More: 2012 Playoffs, Atlanta Hawks, Boston Celtics, Kevin Garnett
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