Garnett got the message to fire away
NEW YORK — The sight of Kevin Garnett imploring his Celtics teammates to do something more is a familiar one. The sight of coach Doc Rivers imploring Garnett to do more than he usually does is about as rare as Garnett cracking a smile during crunch time.
But during the Celtics’ 101-89 win over the Knicks yesterday in Game 4 at Madison Square Garden, Rivers urged his big man to shoot as often as he wanted. Garnett had taken just four shots in the first half — making three of them. It helped offset Paul Pierce’s 1-for-10 performance during the first half.
“I don’t get on Kevin often,’’ said Rivers. “But today he was so pass conscious because of the trapping. We had times where there were point guards on him. We just wanted him to be aggressive.’’
Garnett listened to his coach and came out firing in the third quarter, doing his best Carmelo Anthony impression and exploding for 18 points on 7-of-10 shooting in the period. But he may have taken his coach’s advice too far. With Garnett as the main offensive option, the Celtics’ lead shrank from 23 to 10 points.
“We got away from what we call our formula,’’ said Rivers. “We went to too much [isolation], too much post where they could see us and trap us. And that allowed them to trap.’’
It wasn’t that Rivers didn’t want Garnett to shoot. He clearly was in a groove. Rivers just wanted Garnett’s scoring to be a product of the team’s offense, not the focus of it.
With 10:12 remaining in the fourth quarter and the Celtics leading, 82-76, Rivers brought Garnett back into the game. Garnett drew a foul and hit a pair of free throws on his first possession, then missed a turnaround jumper and a layup as Boston’s lead dwindled to 4. The Celtics had gone more than seven minutes without a field goal. At the 7:33 mark, Rivers called a timeout. After the break, Garnett — and his teammates — found a better flow.
“We just went back to doing what we were doing all of Game 3 and most of [today],’’ said Rivers. “And that was multiple options. And let [Rajon] Rondo make a decision.’’
Rondo wisely decided to go back to the hot hand of Garnett down the stretch. The two executed pick-and-pop plays with 4:12 and 2:04 left. Each time, Garnett’s jumper was pure. The shots took the air out of a Knicks crowd that had awoken for the first time in two games in New York. And they showed that Garnett wasn’t going to hesitate taking a shot in crunch time.
Garnett said the plays were executed to perfection.
“On those type of plays, Rondo usually takes my man with him,’’ said Garnett. “I just have to get the proper spacing and knock the shot down.’’
Garnett finished with 26 points, becoming the fourth Celtic to lead the team in scoring in the series. After outputs of 15, 9, and 12 points in Games 1-3, Garnett’s scoring was a welcome surprise.
“He’s so unselfish,’’ Rivers said of his All-Star forward. “He’s going to pass the ball anyways at the end of the day. And it was great to see it. Fourth-quarter scoring for him has been very good for us all year, and he did that again [today]. He was great.’’
Gary Dzen can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.