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Irish Coffee: The day a nobody stopped Kevin Garnett

05.15.12 at 1:35 pm ET
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Kevin Garnett was coming off a two-game stretch in which he totaled 57 points on 39 shots, 25 rebounds and eight blocks while putting the finishing touches on the Hawks and painting a new masterpiece agains the 76ers, so why did the Celtics wait until it was too late to get their center involved again?

“Maybe we weren’t a smart team or a well-coached team, because that was obviously the game plan to go there,” Celtics coach Doc Rivers said Tuesday on WEEI’s Dennis & Callahan Morning Show. “We were in transition a lot and never really got into our sets. That happens in games. You see it all the time, but it just took too long to get into it. It took too long to establish it. We used timeouts to get into it — we just never did.”

Garnett made his first two shots, an 11-footer 17 seconds in and a 16-footer 2:48 into the first quarter, capping the C’s 5-for-5 shooting stretch that gave them an 11-3 start. And they turned to him once over the next 26:54.

“KG’€™s an unselfish player,” said Celtics point guard Rajon Rondo, who recorded 13 assists, but only two to Garnett — including one on the meaningless 3-pointer at the buzzer that resulted in the 82-81 final score. “He could’€™ve taken a lot more shots than he did, but he passed up his shots to get the assist or made the hockey pass. In the fourth quarter, over the stretch, when KG had it going, we just kept feeding him.”

As if flipping a switch, the Celtics leaned on Garnett in the fourth quarter. He made 5-of-7 shots and scored 11 of his 15 points, grabbing four rebounds and dishing out two assists, while playing the final 12 minutes. In the span of a minute midway through the quarter, he made an 18-foot jumper to cut the deficit to two on one end; then defended Jrue Holiday, altered a Louis Williams shot and grabbed the rebound on the other; and tied the game 65-65 on a turnaround in the lane back on the offensive end. In other words, he was everywhere.

“I don’€™t call the plays,” said Garnett. “Doc and Rondo are trying to get guys into a rhythm, trying to keep the offense flowing. That’€™s what it is. Whatever he asked me to do, that’€™s what I’€™m going to do.”

The problem? Outside of the first three minutes and that stretch in the fourth quarter, the offense rarely flowed, and the Sixers deserve much of that credit. “They were trapping early, which made us want to move the ball,” said Rivers, “but not move the ball away from Kevin, and I think that’s what we did. I thought we overreacted.”

Philly moved 7-foot center Spencer Hawes onto Brandon Bass, and when a hobbled Elton Brand (neck) couldn’t stop Garnett early, Philadelphia coach Doug Collins gave rookie Lavoy Allen the difficult task of both pushing the Celtics center off the block and defending his mid-range game.

“We tried to put some strength on him,” said 76ers coach Doug Collins. “We tried to take away his rhythm shots. They do such a great job of getting you strung out and throwing back to him, and all those shots he catches in rhythm he just doesn’t miss. So, really, it was trying to disrupt the efficiency and the timing just a little bit. And our guys were able to do it. … We made him work hard for his points tonight, and that was critical.”

In all likelihood, Garnett would dismiss Allen as a nobody, mainly because he is. As recent as March, he averaged only 8.6 minutes per game and was nowhere to be seen in the NBA Rookie of the Year voting. Yet, here Allen is, in the Eastern Conference semifinals, guarding Kevin Garnett.

As Evan Turner admitted, that’s no small task. “[Garnett]’s a tough cat,” he said. “He’€™s hard to move. Every time you bump into him, it feels like your body gets a headache, so he’€™s not an easy customer or anything like that.”

What happens next? How does Rivers adjust to Collins’ adjustment? Will Garnett continue to be the C’s focal point offensively in this series? Do the Celtics need to do a better job getting him the ball? Or does Garnett just need to be more assertive? So many questions to answer in Game 3, so little time before Wednesday.

“Kevin’s a team guy,” said Rivers. “He understands his role. We want to feature him in this series. We wanted to feature him in the Atlanta series. Sometimes you go into different series, and you say, ‘This is your series.’ And this is a Kevin series, and so was the Atlanta series, so we have to feature him. Listen, Kevin can’t score if he doesn’t get the ball in the right place, and we did a poor job of doing that.”

The real question: Will Garnett let a rookie stand in the way of him and the Eastern Conference finals?

(Have a question, concern or conception for the next Irish Coffee? Send a message to @brohrbach on Twitter.)

Read More: 2012 Playoffs, Boston Celtics, Doc Rivers, Kevin Garnett
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