Celtics struggle as Garnett's touches diminish

Celtics struggle as Garnett's touches diminish
May 15, 2012, 7:48 pm
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PHILADELPHIA Kevin Garnett is 6-foot-11 and literally the biggest reason why the Boston Celtics are still playing basketball right now.

He put the banged-up Celtics on his back and carried them to a series-clinching Game 6 win over Atlanta last week.

When they came out in Game 1 of their second-round series against Philadelphia with about as much energy as a fire fly, once again it was Kevin Garnett to the rescue.

He is a future Hall of Famer in the twilight of his career, playing at a level we haven't seen since from him since he arrived in Boston in 2007.

And yet for most of Game 2 against the Sixers, Garnett was a ghost that apparently no one on the Celtics could see for the bulk of three quarters.

In the world of text messaging lingo, this would qualify as a SMH (shake my head) moment for the Celtics who are in a 1-1 series tie with the Philadelphia 76ers heading into Games 3 and 4.

As inexplicable and confusing as it seemed at the time, listening to the Big Three -- Rajon Rondo, Garnett and head coach Doc Rivers -- who heavily determine Garnett's impact explain what happened.

The only thing that we know is this: Garnett didn't take over the game until the fourth quarter, and by then it was too late.

Here's Rivers' take on what happened.

"We didn't go to him," Rivers said. "It's plain and simple."

Garnett finished with 15 points and 12 rebounds, with 11 of those points coming in the fourth.

Prior to fourth, Garnett had taken just five shots (he made two) from the field. His 12-foot, step-back jumper just 17 seconds into the fourth quarter was his first made field goal since the 9:12 mark of the first quarter.

The Sixers are a very good team defensively, and certainly made limiting Garnett's touches a central part of their defensive game plan.

"We tried to put some strength on him," said Sixers coach Doug Collins. "We tried to take away his rhythm shots. They do such a great job of getting you strung out and throwing back to him and all those shots he catches in rhythm he just doesnt miss. So really it was trying to disrupt the efficiency and the timing just a little bit. And our guys were able to do it."

Everything Collins said was on point.

His big men, namely Spencer Hawes, Elton Brand and rookie Lavoy Allen, all did a good job collectively of keeping Garnett from getting into any kind of flow offensively.

But the C's, truth be told, made it easier for the Sixers defense to do so.

In Game 1, Boston would often feed the ball to Garnett and when the double-team came, he'd pass it back outside, only to re-post and get the ball again.

After re-posting, Garnett often had a better shot attempt or it freed up a teammate for a pretty good look either cutting to the basket or for an open or lightly contested perimeter shot.

But far too often when Garnett would pass the ball out of a double team in Game 2, he didn't see it again.

"KG is an unselfish player," said Celtics point guard Rajon Rondo. "He could have taken a lot more shots than he did. He passed up some shots to get the assist, or he made the hockey pass."

Garnett is wise enough to know that no matter what the Sixers try to do to him defensively, he has the ability to score when needed.

But Garnett is trying to make things easier not only for himself, but the C's as a whole by getting other guys involved more in the scoring.

With Paul Pierce (sprained MCL, left knee) having little lift on his shots now, Boston has to find another scoring threat besides Garnett.

To his credit, KG - the C's as a team really - tried to make that player be Brandon Bass who has had a rough stretch shooting the ball in the playoffs.

After averaging a career-high 12.5 points in the regular season on 47.9 percent shooting from the field, Bass is down to 9.5 points in the playoffs while shooting 40 percent from the field.

Bass made his first three shots in Game 2, but missed 10 of his next 12 and finished with 12 points on 5-for-15 shooting.

Without question, the C's quest to get Bass on track certainly took away to some extent, opportunities for Garnett.

When asked whether it was the Sixers defense or that he just got into a rhythm late in the game, Garnett said, "I don't call the plays; Doc, Rondo, you know, trying to get guys into rhythm, get the offense flowing. That's what it is. Whatever he asks me to do, I'll do."

If it's that simple, then the message to Garnett and the Celtics is pretty obvious.

Get him the ball. A lot. All game.

Of course, Garnett is too unselfish to put it out there that the Celtics need to get him the ball more often.

But in describing what happened down the stretch in Boston's Game 2 loss, it's pretty clear what he knows -- and the C's for that matter -- has to happen for them to take a series lead on Wednesday.

"Execution. We didn't execute the way we know we can (in Game 2)," Garnett said. "We went away from a lot of different things. I felt like post-presence, we did it late. We didn't have post presence until the fourth quarter or whatever. We're a better team than we played (in Game 2). We'll watch film and get better."