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Kevin Garnett’s unusual shot patterns

04.11.12 at 3:27 pm ET
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Everyone knows that Kevin Garnett is one of the best long-range shooting big men in the league. He’s made 48 percent of his shots from 16-23 feet this season, which is pretty much what he’s done every season since he’s been in Boston. Garnett ranks third in field goal percentage from that distance among power forwards (where he’s still listed on HoopData) behind only Dirk Nowitzki and teammate Brandon Bass.

Garnett’s not a power forward anymore, technically. Spurs coach Gregg Popovich put it perfectly when his team was in town last week. “You can pigeonhole him if you want to,” Popovich said. “He’€™s Kevin. He does what he does.”

With the emergence of Greg Stiemsma as a legitimate backup center, Garnett has been playing more four recently, but for all intents of purposes he’s a center now. Yet he hasn’t changed his game that much. He still guards fours and fives depending on the matchup and he’s still taking those jumpers.

What has changed is the opponents’ having to match up with two jump shooting bigs in Garnett and Bass. That draws the defense away from the basket and creates openings for Rajon Rondo and Paul Pierce to work a pick and pops with Garnett and Bass, or allow Avery Bradley room to cut to the basket. Garnett, who is the second-best passer on the team after Rondo, has hooked up with Bradley on a number of occasions.

On his CourtVision blog, Kirk Goldsberry took the time to chart where Garnett actually shoots from and the data offers and interesting look into Garnett’s shot selection. For example, he’s more effective when shooting long range jumpers from the left side toward the basket, but he’s better everywhere else on the right side: deep corners, midrange and on the block. Against the Heat on Tuesday, he took seven shots shots from the right side, four from the left and three at the rim, while making 11-of-14.

Doc Rivers said after the game that his team was doing a good job of keeping things simple, but within that tight structure Garnett is free to move around from side to side and keep things fresh.

The Celtics have had trouble scoring points this season — they shot all the way to 26th in points per possession after dropping 115 on the Heat — but they have been in a decent rhythm lately. In six of their last nine games, they’ve scored at an above-average rate (at least for them ) and have recorded three of their most efficient games in that stretch against Minnesota, Philadelphia and Miami on Tuesday.

Garnett’s role in the offense is a piece of a larger whole, but it’s taken on an increased importance down the stretch. He’s averaging better than 15 shots per game over the last 10 and making better than 50 percent of them while taking on a larger work load. As the playoffs draw close, Garnett is adjusting quite well to his position change, and his increased role in the offense.

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