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Jazz 90, Celtics 85

Garnett injures knee

He sits out second half of Celtics' loss

Kevin Garnett hops off the court after straining his right knee in the second quarter. Kevin Garnett hops off the court after straining his right knee in the second quarter. (Douglas C. Pizac/Associated Press)
By Frank Dell'Apa
Globe Staff / February 20, 2009
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SALT LAKE CITY - The Celtics lost Kevin Garnett to a knee injury late in the first half and faded in the stretch against the Jazz, falling, 90-85, last night.

Garnett's condition will be evaluated today and his status is undetermined for Sunday's game at Phoenix.

Garnett strained his right knee going for an alley-oop late in the second quarter and did not play in the second half. Garnett, who earned a jump ball by diving for a loose ball earlier in the second quarter, departed with 1:08 remaining. He then hopped on his left foot into the locker room.

"He's resting right now," president Danny Ainge told TNT sideline reporter Cheryl Miller at halftime. "It's been bothering him for a couple of weeks."

"It's a long season and we're not going to take a risk," said coach Doc Rivers. "I love having him out there and he probably would have made a difference."

Garnett scored 8 points and had 2 rebounds in 15 minutes.

The Celtics (44-12) took the lead in the opening minutes and held off a late first-half rally, the Jazz squandering a chance to tie as Andrei Kirilenko missed a foul shot with 0.8 seconds to play. The Celtics protected the lead, despite a 4:21 field goal drought in the third quarter.

But the Celtics went on another field goal drought in the final quarter, converting only once in a 6:44 span.

This time, Utah capitalized, taking the lead as Paul Millsap finished a 3-point play off a bank shot. That gave Utah a 77-76 edge with 5:44 to play - the first Jazz lead since 7-6. A Rajon Rondo free throw provided the Celtics with a 76-70 lead 4:29 into the quarter. But Matt Harpring hit a jump hook and drew an offensive foul on Paul Pierce.

Mehmet Okur cut the Jazz deficit to 2 points, Pierce missed in a mismatch against Deron Williams, and Millsap scored on an off-balance launch against Kendrick Perkins.

Rondo kept the Celtics in contention with four successive foul shots, his drive tying the score, 82-82, with 4:01 remaining, the team's second field goal since a Pierce jumper 1:15 seconds into the quarter.

Brian Scalabrine fouled out with 3:21 remaining, and Perkins and Leon Powe had already committed their fifth fouls earlier in the quarter.

Pierce had several chances to keep the Celtics ahead in the late going.

He fired wide against Harpring, then had a mismatch against Williams, but again missed - this time Perkins rebounded and the Celtics called a timeout. But Pierce misfired again and Harpring's 15-footer gave the Jazz an 85-83 advantage. Ray Allen's lefthander rolled off the rim and Williams's 16-footer extended the lead to 4. A Ronnie Brewer foul shot off a Kirilenko missed free throw clinched the game with six seconds left.

Three of Utah's first 10 shots were blocked as the Celtics set the defensive tone. Utah shot 4 for 21 in the first quarter as the Celtics took a 22-13 lead. But the Celtics also struggled on offense.

Eddie House missed a technical foul shot with a chance to extend the Celtics' 11-point lead early in the second quarter. Gabe Pruitt, who replaced Rondo midway through the opening quarter, was off on three successive jumpers.

Rondo committed his third personal foul soon after returning in the second quarter and found Allen for a transition 3-pointer and a 31-21 lead 5:39 into the quarter. Scalabrine made his first appearance since recovering from a concussion, converting his first shot from 20 feet.

With Garnett in the locker room, the Jazz cut the Celtics' lead to 37-35 on a Brewer transition 3-point play. Perkins dunked 10 seconds later, but the Jazz cut the halftime deficit to 39-38 on a Mehmet Okur basket and an Kirilenko foul shot.

Scalabrine, playing for the first time since Jan. 25 against Dallas, started the second half in place of Garnett. He hit a 3-pointer for a 49-44 lead 2:50 into the half but committed three fouls and departed after his fifth with 8:30 left in the third quarter. The Celtics then scored 9 straight points for a 58-47 edge with 6:48 left in the quarter.

The Celtics concluded the quarter with a Glen Davis-Powe-Pierce frontcourt, taking a 66-60 lead on a Pierce jumper with 18 seconds to go.

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