When it comes to public perception of the Boston Celtics’ future Hall of Fame forward Kevin Garnett, there is no gray area. Most basketball fans either appreciate his unbridled enthusiasm, intensity and indomitable will or view him as an arrogant, trash-talking, dirty player. Whatever one’s perspective may be, what is undeniable is that the once-skinny kid who came directly from Chicago’s Farragut Career Academy via Mauldin, S.C., in 1995 to the NBA is one of the greatest power forwards to ever play.
Now 35 and in the twilight of an illustrious legacy, Garnett remains the heart and soul of a Celtic team making another compelling playoff run. And not surprisingly, he was at the center of controversy on Monday night in the Celtics’ 82-81 loss to the Philadelphia 76ers in Boston in Game 2 of their Eastern Conference semifinal match-up.
Although Garnett was outstanding in the game’s closing minutes, scoring 11 points in the fourth quarter and leading the Celtics with 15 points and 12 rebounds, he was called for setting an arguable illegal screen with 10 seconds remaining, attempting to create room for Paul Pierce to get an open look at the basket. The Celtics were trailing 76-75 and never overcame the deficit. The best-of-seven series moved to Philadelphia last night (Wednesday) tied at 1-1.
“[Official] Mike [Smith] was in a position and he called it,” said Garnett after the defeat. “I’m not going to make a big stink about it.” He added that another official, Danny Crawford, “had already given me a warning about setting the picks…but to me that wasn’t the reason we lost the game…I just thought in that situation, you let the players decide the game. But if that was an illegal pick, then that’s what it is.”
It is by and large on the broad shoulders of Garnett that the Celtics have come this far this season. Forget the 29 points he had in Game 1 of this series or his remarkable 28-point, 14-rebound performance against the Atlanta Hawks in Game 6 of the Celtics’ opening round series, it was Garnett’s mid-season resurrgence after a slow start, carrying the Celtics to the Atlantic Division title, that affirms his greatness. And the proverbial old man continues to soldier on.