First Published 7 hours ago • Updated 1 hour ago
Kevin Garnett punked the Jazz.
He did exactly what Utah swore it wouldn’t allow, and the 35-year-old Celtics forward got away with anything he wanted.
Garnett talked smack, threw elbows and rocked TD Garden on Wednesday during Boston’s 94-82 victory, making Utah’s pregame assertions that it’s a tougher, stronger and fiercer version of its 2010-11 self sound like hollow prefight chatter.
Garnett’s knockout was just one win during a 66-round battle, though, and the Jazz have proven numerous times during the 2011-12 season that their skin is becoming thicker and their growl is growing louder.
Utah will never be confused with Detroit’s Bad Boys, let alone the Stockton-Malone-Sloan teams that defined an era. But everything from rookie Alec Burks’ sharp edge to the raw power of young big men Derrick Favors and Enes Kanter has emboldened the Jazz. Throw in Earl Watson’s bulldog mentality, Paul Millsap’s willpower and point guard Devin Harris’ recent cold staredown with Sacramento power forward DeMarcus Cousins, and Utah’s tougher than it’s been since Matt Harpring traded a uniform for a microphone.
"Nobody’s going out there with the intention to fight," Jazz forward C.J. Miles said. "But we’re not going to be punked, though. [Our opponent’s] not going to punk nobody. That’s the biggest thing."
Utah’s youth has sharpened the Jazz’s teeth. Kanter can be a bull in the paint, Favors is beastly, and Burks’ gutsy in-game confrontation with Dallas’ Brendan Haywood — who holds a six-inch, 61-pound size advantage — March 3 set the tone for a grittier, chippier Jazz.
Burks after tangling with Haywood: "I ain’t soft. I ain’t no punk. I ain’t going to let nobody try to outhustle me or out-tough me. I’m from Kansas City. I’m not scared of nobody."
Before facing the Celtics: "You can’t get pushed around. It’s either kill or be killed in this league."
Post-KG: "I’m not going to be punked. I’m a grown man. You’re not going to challenge my manhood."