Celtics' Garnett creating a headache for Sixers

Kevin Garnett is averaging 23.7 points and 12 rebounds in the series.
Kevin Garnett is averaging 23.7 points and 12 rebounds in the series. (RON CORTES / Staff)
Posted: May 19, 2012

It is a sight that is quickly getting old in this series.

Boston's Kevin Garnett is out near the free-throw line just in time to welcome the basketball into his hands. Then, in a mad dash, Sixers center Spencer Hawes - or whichever Sixer is assigned the job of making Garnett's work a little more difficult than it seems - runs at him, arms outstretched in an effort to disrupt his rhythm. But the end result is pretty much the same.

Swish. Two more points.

The Celtics have gotten two very good performances from Rajon Rondo, and on Wednesday, in their Game 3 rout of the Sixers, Paul Pierce awoke from the slumber of shooting 5 for 20 through the first two games to score 24 points as the Celtics took a two-games-to-one lead in the best-of-seven, second-round playoff series. But it has been the Sixers' inability to disrupt Garnett, who turns 36 on Saturday, that has become most problematic.

This was evident again in Game 3. While Rondo single-handedly outplayed the Sixers' entire backcourt, scoring 23 points on 9-for-16 shooting and handing out 14 of the Celtics' 26 assists, Garnett was as efficient as ever, shooting 12 for 17 from the field for 27 points and 13 rebounds.

Through three playoff games against the Sixers, Garnett is averaging 23.7 points while shooting 63.3 percent (31 for 49) from the field. He's also averaging 12 rebounds per game against the Sixers.

During the regular season, in which the Sixers won two of the three meetings, Garnett averaged 16 points, 6.3 rebounds, and 2.0 assists.

We should all age so gracefully.

"He's a great player," the Sixers' Thaddeus Young said. "He's a guy who's going to go out there and do the dirty work and play hard all the time. He's going to motivate his team. That's what he's been doing the whole season and he's just cranked it up to another level in this whole playoff series."

Garnett's numbers for the series would be even more ominous had his teammates not seemed to have forgotten him in Game 2. In his worst game of the series, an 82-81 Boston loss, Garnet attempted just 12 shots, yet still finished with a double-double (15 points, 12 rebounds).

His play around the basket and his defensive rebounding (all 13 of his boards on Tuesday were at the defensive end) allowed the Celtics to get out on the break - something that was supposed to be a Sixers advantage. As a result the Celtics won the points-in-the-paint battle on Tuesday by 50-38.

Whether it is Hawes, Young, Elton Brand, or rookie Lavoy Allen, Garnett poses a problem for the Sixers for a number of reasons. They want to keep Garnett, the Celtics' best offensive rebounder, off the glass. Garnett is so good at collecting long rebounds and stepping out to hit the short- to medium-range jumper, however, that he makes the Sixers pay for their strategy.

"He's a great player and he's doing what he's always done," Young said. "You don't really stop what he does. We have got to come out and play with more energy and play better defense. But you don't stop him."

If they don't, this ride could soon be over.

Contact John N. Mitchell at jmitchell@philly.com. Follow him on Twitter @JmitchInquirer.

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