THIS STORY HAS BEEN FORMATTED FOR EASY PRINTING

Garnett is left at a loss

By Barbara Matson
Globe Correspondent / May 15, 2012
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It was a powerful image: Kevin Garnett, hanging off the rim for a few long moments after his alley-oop dunk tied the Celtics with the 76ers at 69 with just more than three minutes left in Game 2 of the Eastern Conference semifinals at TD Garden Monday night. Turns out, it was not the last image of Garnett.

He left another picture in the game’s final seconds, one of frustration. The Celtics had closed within 78-75, and were bringing the ball upcourt to set up Paul Pierce for a potential tying shot when with 10 seconds left Garnett was whistled for setting an illegal pick. The Sixers’ Louis Williams dropped in a pair of free throws to make it a 5-point deficit and the game was effectively out of reach.

Ray Allen and Garnett made 3-pointers, but the Celtics were out of chances, losing, 82-81. The series is tied at one game apiece and Game 3 is Wednesday night in Philadelphia.

Garnett did not for a minute think the illegal pick call made a difference in the outcome.

“Mike [Smith] was in a position and he called it,’’ said Garnett. “I’m not going to make a big stink about it. I think Danny [Crawford] had already given me a warning about how I was setting the picks. I’m going to continue to set picks, I’m going to continue to get guys open but that wasn’t, to me, the game. There were things up to that point in determining the game but that one play, Mike made a great call.

“I just thought in that situation you let the players decide the game but hey, if he felt like it was an illegal pick, then that’s what it is.’’

After back-to-back games of 28 and 29 points, Garnett couldn’t drag his team past Philadelphia this time. He scored 15 points on 7-for-12 shooting, but like his teammates, he failed to find a rhythm until the fourth quarter. The Celtics shot 42 percent for the game.

Garnett said the Celtics’ biggest problem was execution.

“We didn’t execute the way we know we can,’’ he said. “We went away from a lot of different things; we didn’t have a post presence till the fourth quarter. We’re a better team than we played tonight so we’ll watch film tomorrow and get better.’’

At the start of the game, the Sixers appeared to be the older, tired team and the Celtics the squad full of pep. Boston had a 9-0 lead before the 76ers got a sniff at the basket.

But it was a deceptive score. The Celtics ended up shooting just 38.1 percent in the first half. Pierce punctuated the half with a 3-point shot as the clock ticked from 0.1 to 0.0, giving the Celtics just a 38-36 lead.

Garnett was not the dominating presence he had been in Game 1.

“I don’t call the plays,’’ said Garnett, who had 4 points in the first half on 2-for-3 shooting. “Doc [Rivers] and [Rajon] Rondo try to get guys into a rhythm, trying to keep the offense flowing. That’s what it is. Whatever he asked me to do, I’ll do it.’’

In the fourth quarter, Garnett shook loose for 11 points, hitting 5 of 7 shots from the field, including a 3-pointer. Allen got free for 8 of his 17 points, but the Sixers held off the Celtics.

“I’m sure Doc is going to make us watch the first game, then watch the second game, and then it will be obvious,’’ said Garnett. “We have to be more defensively sound. Lot of missed assignments tonight; they’re a good team, too. They made some adjustments, shot the ball better, attacked the basket.’’

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