Boston Celtics' Kevin Garnett complains about a foul call as they play the Miami Heat in the second quarter in Game 6 of the Eastern Conference Finals at the TD Garden in Boston, MA, June 7, 2012.
Rajon Rondo has dropped the jaws and Paul Pierce has hit the big shots, but the Boston Celtics entered Thursdays game with a surprising chance to close out the Miami Heat due to a revitalized Kevin Garnett.
Coming into the game, Garnett led the Celtics with playoff averages of 19.9 points and 10.8 rebounds per game. Out of the players on the three teams still playing, he was fifth in scoring and first in rebounding.
But in the Celtics 98-79 Game 6 loss at TD Garden, Garnetts impact was as minuscule as it has been all series.
Garnett had a hollow 12 points on 6-of-14 shooting and five rebounds the direct result of a philosophical change in the way the Heat defended him and a far cry from the series average of 21.6 points and 10.8 boards he had put up.
Apparently sick of watching Rondo lob passes into the paint for easy KG slams, Miami abandoned the thought of fronting Garnett and began playing him straight up.
LeBron James used his strength advantage to muscle Garnett out of his deep post positioning on the catch, keeping Garnett from using his length to turn and softly drop the ball in for an easy bucket.
Dwyane Wade and Shane Battier sometimes came from the weak side to double him when he did get the ball down low, keeping him from making the moves he has made a Hall of Fame career out of. Garnett was bothered in eight points and four rebounds in the first half.
Were just trying to give him some different looks, hes too good to give him a steady does of one coverage, Battier said. We looked at the film and there were certain plays where they really overload one side, if youre not careful he gets lobs and layups.
Garnett got two of those lobs and layups to start the second half, scoring the Celtics first 4 points. It was the kind of easy layups he was getting in Games 3, 4, and 5, although the technical he was called for when tossing the ball back to Battier, the inbounder, after a basket was more reminiscent of Game 2.
Garnett missed his next shot before being pulled for Mickael Pietrus 5:15 into the third. From there, the Celtics cut a 14-point deficit to as few as 10 behind Brandon Bass, who anchored the small lineup and had a strong game with 12 points and 7 rebounds.
But the Heat limited the damage, leading by 11 when Garnett reentered the game with 2:09 left in the quarter, and held the Celtics scoreless until the fourth. Garnetts inability to put down a Rondo feed in that stretch reeked off when critics said Garnett was finished before his energizing switch to the center position near the All-Star break.
The Heat even dusted off Joel Anthony to keep Garnett in check in the fourth, using the only healthy Heat player with the length to trouble the 6-11 Garnett.
We just try to compete at a high level, contest everything, live with the results, Udonis Halsem said. Just trying to mix it up, doing a lot of different things. Everybodys a little different. I played him one way, [Chris Bosh] played him another way, Joel played him a little different.
Game 6 could be Garnetts last game played before the Boston faithful, with the Celtics already way past due on the initial three-year plan that the Big 3 was leased on; it may even be his last home game in the NBA if the Celtics lose Game 7 and the 36-year-old decides to hang em up.
Garnett revived the franchises culture, bringing an NBA title to the Celtics in 2008 and closer than anyone thought to another one this season, win or lose Saturday night.
Garnetts no-show in Game 6 wont be his lasting image in Boston or in the NBA, but it might very well be his last one.