Gritty Garnett Fueling Celtics
KG’s game is in rare form.
by Jonathan Evans
As Kevin Garnett himself once eloquently put it, at this point his Celtics are relying heavily on grit and balls. Lucky for Boston, KG has plenty of both to go along with a mean post game.
In what could’ve’ been the last meaningful game of this era’s Celtics, Garnett put the city on his back with a 24-11 performance to lead Boston to the 101-91 Game 3 victory. While a scare late pulled Miami back into it, Garnett and Rajon Rondo—KG’s counterpart in the grit and balls department—came up big to keep this series alive for the Celtics.
“We never felt like we took advantage of Kevin in [Game 2], and I thought we could be better defensively and we did those things tonight,” Celtics coach Doc Rivers said.
Indeed they did as Garnett led Boston’s most intense defensive effort of the series and owned the paint on both sides of the ball. Even though Miami fronted and doubled Garnett, Boston repeatedly got it in over the top to set up KG who shot 10-16 from the field and finished with a game-high plus/minus of +27. Owning the inside all night, Garnett spearheaded a C’s attack that had 58 points in the paint.
“We’ve got to keep the discipline and stay with it,” Rivers said of feeding Garnett. “It’s exhausting, but I thought we made terrific passes. I told them throw it up, and Kevin will go get it.”
Get it he did and once he was set, KG unleashed a beautiful array of post moves. There was the back down, baseline spin and one-handed fall away. He also showed Dream shakes, fall aways, dunks and baby hooks. Move after move, Garnett showed that he’s not just an old grizzled bully. The fluidity, the touch, the game is all still there.
“Kevin does so many little things, all the intangibles for us,” Rondo said. “He’s our best help defender, our best communicator. I can go on and on.”
KG is the unquestioned soul of this Celtics team. Yes, he’s the quarterback of their defense. Yes, he’s always there for the reliable 20-footer. It’s bigger than that for Garnett. He’s down for whatever to get the win by any means necessary.
He spent all game in the trenches, working his ass off to get as close to the basket as possible. When the defense hit, he hit back. And when the Heat knocked him down, he did pushups on his knuckles as if to say, ‘No, I will not let my team go quietly.’
“Typical Eastern Conference basketball, very physical, nothing to disappoint,” Garnett said afterward. Hours after the final horn you can almost still see the adrenaline coursing through the Celtics’ center.
“It’s desperation basketball, we played like it. It’s all out, the tenacity, the desperation has to be there,” Garnett said.
After leading by as many as 24, Miami went on a fourth-quarter run to get within 8 with just minutes remaining. Seizing the moment with Garnett on the bench, LeBron James (game-high 34 points) led a late rally to put a scare into the Garden.
But then, when needed most, that grit and balls showed up for Boston. Rondo, who played to a smattering of MVP chants, was a calming force during Miami’s surge and finished with 21 points, 10 dimes and 6 boards. R-Double deftly alternated between setting up his teammates and going for his. His partner in crime, KG, was right there with him, getting big boards and then hitting a 20-foot dagger to seal the deal.
Before the game, Doc said, that despite coming so close in Game 2, “we have not given them our best shot yet.” If Game 3 wasn’t their best, it sure was close. Beyond KG and Rondo, Paul Pierce poured-in 23 points and ‘Quis Daniels came off the bench and had himself a podium game with 9 points, 5 boards and aggressive defense.
“The [expletive] jungle was rocking tonight,” KG said. “I [expletive] loved it.”
Indeed it was. The electric atmosphere was fueled by a crowd not wanting this to be the final act for these Celtics. Through the shear will of KG and Rondo, Boston lives to fight another day and now we just might have a series on our hands.