Garnett knuckles down in crunch time

By Frank Dell’Apa
Globe Staff / June 14, 2010

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First, the “knucklehead plays.’’

Kevin Garnett’s final quarter included 1-of-5 shooting, two turnovers, and two personal fouls. With less than three minutes remaining, Garnett had a turnover and committed his fourth foul, then missed a 16-footer as the Celtics’ lead shrunk from 12 points to 5, at 87-82. Then, Garnett failed to control a jump ball against Derek Fisher with 1:05 remaining.

Garnett had probably his most effective performance of the NBA Finals in the Celtics’ 92-86 Game 5 win over the Lakers last night at TD Garden. And, though Garnett did contribute to the tension in the late going, he finished things off with an inbounds pass to Paul Pierce, leading to a Rajon Rondo layup and a 91-86 edge in the final seconds, then got the Celtics’ final point on a foul shot.

“The severity of this game is huge, man,’’ Garnett said. “You don’t want to go back to LA with them having a chance to close out and them being on their floor. I thought I was active, I got my hands on a lot of loose balls.

“[There were] some knucklehead plays in the fourth quarter that I would like to take back, but I’ll watch them again and apply them to next game. For the most part, I was talkative, I was loud, sort of carried it over and be all out. We have what, four or five days left? So, it’s all or nothing from this point on.’’

In 36 minutes, Garnett had 18 points and 10 rebounds, not the production of someone who might have zoned out for a minute and a half. But Garnett’s greatest contribution was what he considers his specialty — defensively, as he had five steals and two blocks. And, according to coach Doc Rivers, Garnett also added a calming influence — a quality not considered in character.

“I have no idea what he’s talking about,“ Garnett said of Rivers. “We’ve been around each other for a while and we’ve had numerous and different types of conversations, we know how to deal with each other. When things get heated we do a good job communicating the right way vs. just saying anything. It’s a situation where we’ve had to learn from it and we’ve had to apply what we’ve learned, and it’s definitely helped us in games.

“That’s damn near every game. We’re a very passionate team, our practices are the same, if not even more passionate. Our practices are very emotional and we carry some of that over to games. You’ve got to know how to communicate with a teammate, definitely when things are going well or when it’s not. You’ve got to have a level of communication, can’t be sensitive. I think we communicate really well on this team.’’

But Garnett was neither frustrated by Kobe Bryant’s hot shooting nor did he consider it detrimental to the Lakers’ team play.

“I wouldn’t say that, because he’s scoring the ball,’’ Garnett said. “You have to give him the attention that’s needed, if not double teams, triple teams, whatever the scheme is, we try to apply that pressure. When he’s in a rhythm like that he’s very hard to stop.’’

Garnett also seemed to ignore Rivers’s strategy on an inbounds to Pierce, the play that helped clinch the victory.

“It was designed for [Pierce] to get it on the run, he found Rondo cutting back door,’’ Garnett said. “That was a huge momentum play. I wouldn’t say the dagger but it was definitely a momentum shift, carrying it in our direction. It was a huge play because if we don’t get that play they come down and score, they tie the game. I thought we did a good job holding onto the game.

“Both teams are playing very physical, I think the intimidation factor is not a question or issue. They’re playing at home, home is always where your heart is. This will probably be the hardest game of the season, if not of everybody’s career, this game coming up.’’

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