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Celtics 107, Knicks 105 (OT)

Good look in OT has Celtics looking good

By Julian Benbow
Globe Staff / November 23, 2009

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NEW YORK - The plan all along was to put the ball in Paul Pierce’s hands. The problem was that the plan Celtics coach Doc Rivers drew up with his team tied with the Knicks with 9.3 seconds left in overtime yesterday was sort of complicated.

“Doc wanted to do some misdirection stuff,’’ said Kevin Garnett.

Pierce chimed in with a simple suggestion: Run a pick-and-roll for himself and Garnett.

“I know I can get to the basket,’’ Pierce told Rivers. “Or I know I can get Kevin a shot.’’

The first part sounded brilliant. Pierce was working on a 33-point game on 9-of-17 shooting and 9 of 10 from the stripe, not to mention nine rebounds and at that time five assists.

He had been money, and Garnett’s day had been a clunker.

Garnett was 3 for 14 from the floor. He had missed eight jumpers, including a handful from his sweet spot, which surprised Rivers - “Kevin on the elbow,’’ Rivers said. “That’s his spot!’’ - and he had also failed on two shots near the basket.

But with the game on the line, Rivers went with Pierce’s call. Pierce dribbled at the top of the key with Wilson Chandler guarding him. Garnett set a screen to Chandler’s right. When Pierce drifted right, he took Chandler and Garnett’s defender, David Lee, with him. Garnett was inside the 3-point line with a look so open he couldn’t believe it.

Then again, maybe he could.

“I knew I hadn’t made a shot,’’ he said. “So [shoot], I wouldn’t even guard myself either.’’

Garnett pulled up and drilled the 19-footer that gave the Celtics a 107-105 win at Madison Square Garden. He turned toward the Celtics’ bench, clenched his face and fist, gave Will Ferrell, Spike Lee, Mark Wahlberg, Joe Girardi, and the rest of the 19,763 on hand a farewell salute and a peace sign, and walked off.

“It felt good,’’ said Garnett.

Watching Pierce’s plan play out perfectly felt better for Rivers.

“It’s a good thing because he saw it,’’ Rivers said. “And Kevin needed that shot, I’ll tell you.’’

Pierce chalked the call up to a scorer’s instinct.

“Some of them work,’’ he said. “Some of them don’t.’’

Garnett coming through in the clutch, no matter how he had played, was never in doubt for Pierce.

“He’s that type of player,’’ Pierce said. “You’re talking about a Hall of Fame player who’s missed millions of shots. He’s going to keep playing and keep shooting the ball. He stepped up big for our team when we needed it.’’

That the Celtics were in overtime was a riddle in itself. The Knicks were in disarray. The night before, erratic guard Nate Robinson had taken a shot at the wrong basket. Having lost three of four, the Celtics were struggling to put 48 solid minutes together, but there was a stretch in the third quarter yesterday when it seemed like five minutes would suffice.

Ahead, 56-53, at the half, the Celtics ripped off an 11-0 run to start the third quarter, sparked by Pierce and Kendrick Perkins (16 points, 13 rebounds). They were ahead, 73-60, midway through the quarter when Al Harrington started his scoring binge. He scored 18 of his 30 points after halftime, igniting a 22-4 stretch at the end of the third quarter that put the Knicks ahead, 82-77, entering the fourth.

From there, the Celtics found themselves in a basket exchange, and it seemed like they had a chance to seal it down the stretch. Knotted at 98 with 4.7 seconds left in regulation, the Celtics had a play in mind for Pierce to come and get the ball, but it never came together. Rajon Rondo dribbled on the wing opposite the Knicks’ bench and pulled up for a 24-foot 3-pointer that got all iron.

“We messed the play up,’’ Rivers said. “We knew they were going to switch. The only thing I told [Rondo] was, ‘Don’t settle. If you don’t see it there, attack the basket and put it on the officials.’ ’’

The Celtics shot 35 for 84 for the game (10 for 25 from 3-point range) and the entire time, Rivers emphasized the importance of persistence.

Each time a shot clanged off the rim, Rivers insisted, “Keep doing it.’’

“We were getting the shots,’’ he said. “And my bet is eventually one of them was going to go in. I didn’t know it was going to be the last play in overtime when it finally went in, but it did.’’

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