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Kevin Garnett shifts gears into clutch

04.20.11 at 12:50 am ET
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In the final seconds of close Celtics games over the last four years, you remember Ray Allen coming off screens and lord knows you remember the Paul Pierce isolations. But the Kevin Garnett hook shots? Not so much.

Less than a week ago, Jackie MacMullan wrote a piece that detailed Garnett’s lack of aggressiveness down the stretch of tight contests. Somewhere in the middle of it was this note: “In his time with the Celtics, KG has not attempted a single shot in the final 10 seconds of regulation or overtime in a playoff game.”

Well, scratch that off Garnett’s to-do list.

In Game 2 of their first-round series, the Celtics trailed the Knicks by one with 19 seconds remaining when Rajon Rondo inbounded to Garnett out of the timeout. The Celtics forward proceeded to back Jared Jeffries down on the dribble, turn to his left and toss in a hook shot in the paint. The basket gave the Celtics a 94-93 advantage with 13 seconds left.

“It was interesting,” said Ray Allen, who hit the game-winning bucket in Game 1. “The play wasn’t even for Kevin the way we ran it. Rondo threw it to him, and I’m glad he did, because that proves big for us going into the next game. Most of our plays have several different options on it, but it involved me, Paul [Pierce] and Kevin at some point. And he saw the matchup.”

Not only did Kevin Garnett come up clutch offensively, he made the key defensive play, too. (AP)

The play may not have worked as Celtics coach Doc Rivers originally drew it up — which he did on Tuesday morning, just 12 hours before Game 2 — but it didn’t evolve as the Knicks imagined, either.

“It was a tough shot,” said Jeffries. “We wanted to send him middle and not give him his baseline shot — which is his patented shot — and he made it. When he went middle, he made a tough contested shot. We were trying the whole game to push him middle and not let him get to that baseline shot, and he made a tough shot.”

KG the Clutch Post Player. If you’re on the Celtics side, that’s got a nice ring to it.

“I really wasn’t in a nice rhythm to be honest,” said Garnett. “I was just taking what [Jeffries] was giving me. I’d been in that situation a couple times. I think earlier he got a poke from the back, and that wasn’t going to happen twice. So, I just remained calm and went to a shot I know I can make.”

While Garnett may have known he could make it, just about everybody else in TD Garden figured the ball would end up in the hands of Allen or Pierce.

“We just had to live with it,” said Knicks swingman Bill Walker. “We weren’t going to let Ray, and we weren’t going to let Paul beat us. Ticket made a great play, and that’s it.”

While Garnett’s offensive heroics may have surprised most, his clutch defense didn’t shock anyone. Moments after his go-ahead basket, Garnett hit the ground for a big steal that sealed the deal. After he called a timeout, Delonte West buried a pair of free throws that put the game away, 96-93.

“You know what’s crazy, man?” said Garnett. “I barely remember anything about tonight. I just know that I had a steal, and at that point I’m just reacting more than anything, to be honest.”

In the clutch, maybe he should trust his gut more often. It could pay dividends in these playoffs.

Read More: Boston Celtics, Jared Jefferies, Kevin Garnett, New York Knicks
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