2008 NBA Playoffs: Kevin Garnett's True Value to the Boston Celtics

Tim CoughlinFeatured ColumnistApril 20, 2008

BOSTON - APRIL 23:  Kevin Garnett #5 of the Boston Celtics and Ray Allen #20 celebrate a foul called against the Atlanta Hawks during Game Two of the Eastern Conference Quarterfinals on April 23, 2008 at the TD Banknorth Garden in Boston, Massachusetts.  NOTE TO USER: User expressly acknowledges and agrees that, by downloading and or using this Photograph, user is consenting to the terms and conditions of the Getty Images License Agreement.  (Photo by Elsa/Getty Images)
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Kevin Garnett was a plus-28 in the Boston Celtics' 104-81 victory over the Atlanta Hawks to open the first round of the NBA playoffs Sunday night.

That means the Celtics outscored the Hawks by 28 with him on the floor and were outscored by five points without him. If the NBA had its own version of baseball's value over replacement player stat, he'd be off the charts.

The point is that Garnett is one of the most effective players in the league and has been for a decade. But watching the Celtics play, especially the handful of players remaining from last year's 24-58 team, it's evident that his, and Ray Allen's, arrival have completely changed the culture on the team.

Now there is an expectation to win—a fearlessness to the point where the team now has a swagger. But more often it's just a simple determination.

Garnett doesn't just make his teammates better; he makes them believe they are better.

In the last couple weeks in particular, it seems the Celtics as a team have realized they have the best record in the NBA and the second-best record in Celtics history.

That's right, Celtics history.

They don't just believe they can win every game; whether it's true or not, they know they will win every game. Following a loss, they seem to take it as things just didn't go their way, so they'll get the next one.

Combined with the new influx of talent with Garnett and Allen and the ever-improving coaching, you have a dangerous mix for any opponent to face.

Especially in a seven-game series.

The new culture that has taken hold in Boston shined in the second-to-last game of the season, a 99-93 victory over the New York Knicks. Sure, the Knicks are a team in disarray, but the Celtics won while resting their three All-Stars: Garnett, Allen and Paul Pierce. Rajon Rondo had one of the best games of his young career, and the rest of the team played confidently and efficiently from all the experience of playing in so many wins during the season.

They won the game without too much trouble, but it was only natural.

Now they're at full strength with arguably the most complete roster in the NBA, slashing through the unfortunate Hawks. The way the first game ended, it's only a matter of time before they move on to the next round.

They know they will make that happen. Garnett's intense presence makes the belief even stronger.

That unrelenting confidence should take them further than what they've got on paper. And with what they’ve got on paper, there may be no stopping them.