BOSTON -- For nearly 44 minutes, the Boston Celtics watched Carmelo Anthony score 42 points and have his way at the basket without any regard for their defensive efforts.
It took Kevin Garnett just nine seconds to take that all away.
On Tuesday in Game 2 of the first round series between the Boston Celtics and New York Knicks, it was Garnetts turn to change the outcome. Ray Allen had hit a game-winning three-pointer two days earlier, and this time Garnett took care of it in the paint.
In a game with 22 lead changes, Garnett slammed a dunk from Paul Pierce with 1:14 left in the fourth quarter to put the Celtics up, 92-91. But the Cs fell behind by one with 19.3 seconds to go after Jared Jeffries scored on a layup.
Coming out of a timeout, Rondo inbounded to Garnett, who worked Jeffries down in the paint and converted on a hookshot with 13.3 seconds remaining.
I really wasnt in a nice rhythm, to be honest, Garnett (12 points, 6-16 FG, 10 rebounds) said after the game. I was just taking what he was giving me. Ive been in this situation before a couple times. I think earlier he had got a poke from the back, when you poke the ball, and that wasnt going to happen twice. So I just remained calm, went to a shot that I know I can make.
On the next trip down the court, Garnett stripped the ball from Jeffries under the Knicks basket and called timeout with 4.4 seconds remaining. The Celtics regained possession and Delonte West hit free throws to ice the 96-93 victory, giving the Cs a 2-0 lead in the series.
Kevin Garnett doesnt remember making his final play of the game, but the Knicks will. In a frenzy of intensity, his basketball instincts took over and his burning desire to win controlled his body.
You know whats crazy? I barely remember anything about tonight, he said. I just know I had a steal and at that point Im just reacting more than anything at that point, to be honest. Nothing more, nothing less than that.
While Garnetts defense is unwavering, Tuesday his offense on Tuesday was not consistent for the majority of the game. He had shot just 3-for-10 through three quarters. Part of the Celtics strength, though, is their confidence in one another - and the fortitude of the players to come through in the clutch.
Thats why Doc Rivers didnt hesitate to get Garnett the ball in spite of his stat line.
Listen, KG struggled a little bit offensively but like I said the other day with Ray, we trust all of our guys, he said. We drew up the play and it was for Kevin or Paul Pierce. If they tried to deny the ball to Paul, I told Rondo, then that means that Kevin has to be open because theres only a certain amount of bodies on the floor. They did try to deny Paul which allowed us to get a deep post for Kevin. Rondo made a great cut so they couldnt double team - he was the only guy under the basket. They double teamed - he was sitting there by himself.
Garnetts tear in the final seconds of the game gave the Celtics a critical lead as they travel to New York for Games 3 and 4 this weekend. They head to Madison Square Garden fueled by the efforts of one of their leaders.
Kevin, hes our spirit. He plays as hard as anybody I know and he did what he does best. Thats be the energy guy, get out there, make things happen with this intensity on defense and offense, said Glen Davis.
Its good to get buckets like that. When you go all the way back to when we won it, Kevin was hitting game-winners all the time. So that kind of reminds me of the first year that we won it. So its a good feeling to know that Kevin is getting in the post and making himself a serious threat. And thats what we need him to do down the stretch.
Jessica Camerato is on Twitter athttp:twitter.comjcameratoNBA