Originally posted on Larry Brown Sports  |  Last updated 5/11/12

The Atlanta Hawks were already tasked with a difficult enough assignment of facing the Boston Celtics in the first round of the NBA playoffs. Their owner did them no favors by calling out Kevin Garnett prior to Game 6 — an elimination game for his team.

Garnett had a game-high 28 points, 14 rebounds, five blocks, and three steals in the 83-80 series-clinching win on Thursday night. The veteran said afterward that he was motivated by owner Kevin Gearon’s comments (video above via WEEI’s Ben Rohrback).

“First off, I want to say thank you to their owner for giving me some extra gas tonight,” Garnett said. “My only advice to him is next time he opens his mouth, actually know what he’s talking about — X’s and O’s versus checkbooks and bottom lines.

“We’re not dirty,” he added. “We’re firm, we play aggressive, but we’re not dirty. You have to understand the word ‘dirty’ in this game is very defined: Trying to hurt guys, ill intent. That’s not the way we play basketball. We play very, very respectable to the opponent, to the city, the game. I play with a lot of passion and with force. It’s the playoffs. I haven’t been here trying to hurt anybody, and neither have my teammates. I found that comment to be a little rude and out of hand, and I wanted to address it.

“Just because you’ve got a bunch of money doesn’t mean you can open your mouth,” Garnett said, putting Gearon in place.

Garnett then went on to address the questions about his age by explaining how hard he works and how age means little.

Even though the Celtics’ top players are toward the end of their careers, that doesn’t mean they can’t come up with big games here and there, so calling them old is irrelevant on a one-game basis. Being older just means they’re not at their peak, and that they can’t deliver at a high level as consistently as they did when they were younger. But I still agree with what Gearon said about Garnett being dirty.

Here’s the thing: You don’t say these things while your team is in the middle of a playoff series. As we’ve learned, athletes do hear what’s being said about them and they use it for motivation. Gearon just learned that lesson the hard way.

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