THIS STORY HAS BEEN FORMATTED FOR EASY PRINTING

Garnett was just the ticket

Forward breaks out in Game 3 loss

By Bob Hohler
Globe Staff / June 9, 2010

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Home again, winds whipping off the Zakim, women sparring like million dollar babies in the window of a gym on Canal Street, KG head-butting the backboard stanchion amid the pregame frenzy.

Bye-bye, La-La land. Welcome back, Kevin Garnett.

Home again, KG spun and scored on Pau Gasol. He stuck jumpers, sank fadeaways, and lofted in floaters.

Playing like an old soul with new life — no more slogging up court as if he were ankle-deep in the La Brea Tar Pits, as he appeared to be in relatively poor performances in Games 1 and 2 of the NBA Finals — the Big Ticket returned to form last night in trying to lead the Celtics past the Lakers back home before a packed TD Garden.

He seized rebounds, anchored the defense, and generally inspired his team, though it was too little to spare the Celts from a 91-84 defeat in Game 3.

Still, it gave hope to his teammates as they prepared to keep their drive alive for banner 18.

“KG finally got it going,’’ Rajon Rondo said. “That’s a good sign.’’

Most nights, his performance — 25 points on 11-for-16 shooting, 6 rebounds, and 3 assists — might have been enough to make the difference in a game that was won the hard way.

Not last night, as he was the only pillar of the Big Three who failed to buckle. The others struggled, as Ray Allen mustered only 2 points and failed to sink a field goal (0 for 13), and Paul Pierce finished with 15 points, below his average.

“KG was great,’’ coach Doc Rivers said, lamenting that the Celtics failed to deliver him the ball even more. “We talked about [getting him] 20 shots before the game. He shot 16, should have had 25 as far as I was concerned. I thought there were a lot of times we still should have gotten the ball to him. I didn’t think we had great ball movement.’’

Rivers noted the Celtics had no trouble getting the ball regularly to Allen in his record-setting performance in Game 2, when he struck for 32 points, including a Finals-record eight 3-pointers.

“I didn’t think we did as good a job of getting it to Kevin,’’ Rivers said.

Garnett took only a bit of solace from his improvement.

“I haven’t had the types of game that I would like, haven’t had the type of rhythm that I would like,’’ he said. “Tonight was just a rhythm night for me. Like I said, it flowed. I went with it.’’

He said Rivers pulled him aside after Game 1.

“He told me stay aggressive,’’ Garnett said. “Different series, different players are going to have big nights, certain guys are going to have better flow. Ray in Game 2 had a great flow. I had a decent flow tonight.’’

Still, the Celtics came up empty.

“At the end of the day, it’s about wins,’’ Garnett said. “I don’t care how I’m playing. I played like crap in Game 2, I thought, but I got some key rebounds in that game and we won. Tonight I had a nice offensive flow and we lost. I’ll take Game 2 and how I played there and wins all day over a steady flow and a decent offensive game.’’

Bob Hohler can be reached at hohler@globe.com.

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