Garnett comes through to save Celtics

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Garnett comes through to save Celtics

MIAMI Paul Pierce could not make a shot that mattered for three-plus quarters. Rajon Rondo was not the best player, or second best player, or third-best, or fourth . . . for most of the game.

The saving grace for the Boston Celtics on Tuesday night was the man who had saved them at various stretches this season: Kevin Garnett.

He shook off a slow start to eventually shake to its knees a Miami Heat team that's once again on the verge of seeing its season flame out earlier than expected.

Garnett's team-high 26 points, which included a pair of free throws with 8.8 seconds to play, paved the way for the Celtics' 94-90 Game 5 win.

The C's now return to Boston for a potentially series-clinching Game 6 battle that would return them to the NBA Finals for the third time during the Big Three era.

And as has been the case throughout this series, Miami once again had no answer for Garnett, who finished 11-for-20 from the field after missing six of his first seven shots.

"I let a lot of the offense come to me," said Garnett, who also had 11 rebounds and 2 blocked shots. "I look at myself as a defensive player first. I thought some of the defensive plays I was able to make fueled me into getting some easy baskets."

The one play that sticks out came in the fourth quarter with the Heat ahead, 80-79.

LeBron James came flying through the lane for what appeared to be a lay-up only for Garnett to block the shot and set up a C's offensive possession that ultimately ended with a 15-footer by Garnett with 2:54 to play.

Boston spent all but 23 seconds in the lead for the rest of the night.

And while Paul Pierce delivered a dagger 3-pointer in James' face, and Ray Allen came through with a pair of free throws, it was Garnett who once again saved the day -- and potentially the season -- for the Celtics.

"He's just amazing," C's coach Doc Rivers said of Garnett. "Obviously we need his scoring. That's important, but he just he's our life. I mean, he really is. He just does so many things that don't have numbers to it. A lot of it is his voice. He's in a strange way a calming effect on some of our guys, if you can ever call Kevin that, he is. He's just been terrific for us."

A big part of Garnett's success has been his ability to appreciate the moment for what it is -- one moment.

From the very beginning, Garnett has had visions of the Celtics going further than where they are now.

He has repeatedly talked about the process of being the last team standing, about how the season is filled with ups and downs, hurdles and obstacles, all in some way strengthening the resolve of a team that was pleased but far from satisfied, with Tuesday's win.

"We have been taking this thing one game at a time," Garnett said. "The next game will be no different from that. We'll prepare. We'll make all of the adjustments. We're not looking ahead to anything."

Ainge: Winning more important than All-Star bids

Ainge: Winning more important than All-Star bids

BOSTON -- When it comes to NBA awards and accolades, players in contention often try to play it cool when asked about whether they are deserving.
 
And then there’s Boston’s Isaiah Thomas, who gives a definitive response whenever the question about whether he should be an All-Star starter is raised.
 
We’ll find out later today if Thomas will in fact be named as a starter for the Eastern Conference All-Star team when the East and West starters are announced. 
 
“It’s a little bit refreshing in that he is open about it,” Danny Ainge said on 98.5 the Sports Hub’s Toucher & Rich show this morning. “But every player wants to be acknowledged by their fan base, by other players in the league, coaches. You come into the league and as a young player you want to earn the respect of your peers and then you want to get paid and then you want to be an All-Star; maybe that’s the wrong order; and then nothing more important than winning.
 
Ainge added, “Isaiah is having a great year. He’s talked a lot about it. At some point in his career, he’ll talk about the most important thing and that’s winning championships.”
 
Ainge pointed to when Paul Pierce, Kevin Garnett and Ray Allen were all Celtics, there was no mistaking that winning came before anything else.
 
But where those guys were in their careers in terms of individual achievements and just age, were major factors in their focus being so deeply rooted in winning.
 
“Along the way they all want to win, but when you get to the point where Paul, Ray and KG were in their 30s, they didn’t care about any of that other stuff because they had it all, already,” Ainge said. “They had multiple All-Star games, they had big contracts, winning became the only thing that mattered.”
 
In other Celtics-related news, Ainge said that there’s no timetable for when Avery Bradley (right Achilles strain) will return to the floor. He has missed five of the last six games with the injury which includes last night’s loss to the New York Knicks which was a game in which the 6-foot-2 Bradley was a last-minute scratch from the lineup