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Sunday, May 8, 2011
Notebook: KG in a non-zone zone

By Chris Forsberg

BOSTON -- A collection of news and notes after the Boston Celtics defeated the Miami Heat 97-81 Saturday night in Game 3 of an Eastern Conference semifinal series at the TD Garden:

The rundown: KG's Best Playoff Effort in Boston? | Shaq's Return | Layup Line



Celtics forward Kevin Garnett contends he wasn't in a zone Saturday night. The Heat might argue otherwise.

Garnett put together arguably his finest playoff performance in a Boston uniform, connecting on 13-of-20 field goals for 28 points with 18 rebounds over 37 minutes, 47 seconds of action. Garnett produced half of those points in a pivotal third quarter in which Boston rallied from a two-point halftime deficit and built a double-digit cushion it maintained to the finish line.

During the Big Three era, only twice has Garnett topped his 28-point outing (33 points vs. Detroit in 2008; 32 points vs. Atlanta in 2008) and only once has he registered as many field goals (13 vs. Cleveland in 2008). The rebounds are a Big Three-era high for Garnett and his most in a playoff game since hauling in 19 against the Lakers in May of 2004).

But again, he wasn't in a zone.

"I was aggressive," said Garnett. "I won’t call it a zone. I’ve been in a zone and that wasn’t it. Man, I’ve been in a zone and that wasn’t it. I had a nice rhythm going. Guys looked for me. I had [Rajon Rondo] and Paul [Pierce] encouraging me. I’ve got to continue to be aggressive. It gives us a force and another source of scoring. At the same time, I can’t lose my focus on trying to slow [Chris] Bosh down and making sure that that is even ground. I’ve got to make sure that my focus is defense first and then being a post presence, or whatever I need to be, for this series."

Bosh finished 1-of-6 shooting for six points with five rebounds over 30:15. Heat coach Erik Spoelstra said Bosh woke up with a pinched nerve in his neck, but it might have actually come from watching many of Garnett's 20 attempts sail over him and through the twine.

Garnett was so locked in, coach Doc Rivers blatantly called plays for him even when Garnett didn't want the ball.

"It was funny, you could tell he needed a break with the two minutes left [in the third quarter]," said Rivers. "And I know his run. His head’s bobbing; you could just see it. And I called a punch -- a post play for him -- and he called it off and tried to call a movement play. So I called it back. And I went right back [to the post play] and said, ‘No, we’re going to the post -- to you.’ And Kevin’s nuts because, when he scored, he’s running down the court [screaming], ‘Get the ball to me!’ And I’m laughing. I said, ‘Yeah, that’s what we’re trying to do.’"

Asked to sum up Garnett's performance, Spoelstra said: "Kareem Abdul-Jabbar. That’s what it reminds me of. He’s too proud of a player, talk about an MVP, one of the best players in this league, as soon as he stepped on the court as a rookie 14 years ago. For the revisionists out there, Kareem Abdul-Jabbar, when everyone threw dirt on him in the Finals against Boston, he came out the next night and had 37 [points] and 15 [rebounds]. And while all this fuel was going on the last three days, I was cringing because you know this is a proud [Celtics team], and you knew they would have a response, which is fine. If we’re going to go where we want to go to, we have to outplay them when they are at their best."

And when KG is in a zone -- or, if you believe him, even when he's not -- Boston is at their best.

--SHAQ OVERSHADOWED IN RETURN TO GAME ACTION--

Celtics center Shaquille O'Neal returned to action for the first time in over a month and provided two points and two fouls over 8:29. Better yet for Boston, he didn't aggravate the right calf/Achilles injury that has limited him to 5 minutes since Feb. 1, and Rivers expressed optimism that he'd be fine moving forward.

"Shaq came out of it good," said Rivers, who previously raved about Shaq's defensive effort over a near-four-minute stretch in the second half. "I thought Shaq had a big impact in the second half, just his presence."

Allow Jeff Green to elaborate: “[When] you have a big body down there, guys don’t go down there, and I think that alone speaks for itself. When you have Shaq down there protecting the hole, guys are going to be afraid to go down there. As long as he’s there, we’re allowed to put more pressure on the guys around the perimeter.”

Added Delonte West: "Well, [Shaq] just brought himself. The things that he does, doesn’t always show up in the box scores. The little side conversations he has with Jeff, or how he keeps [Glen Davis] motivated. The starters, for them to come off the floor and have a guy waiting for them that they respect and trust his knowledge, he does so much for us that doesn’t show up in the box score.”

--LAYUP LINE: CHAMPIONSHIP-CALIBER RESPONSE; INJURY ROUNDUP--

* Spoelstra on Boston's inspired play: "That was a championship-caliber response. No other real way to put it. They came out and played extremely hard. They played harder than us and played more efficiently than us. And they’ve earned that pedigree with the battles and the wars that they’ve been in the last four years, where we are trying to get to. We’re trying to take down a champion and it will be one of the toughest things we have to do collectively."

* Miami guard Dwyane Wade defended his part in Rondo suffering a dislocated elbow as the two chased a third-quarter loose ball: "It’s a physical game, the game of basketball is a physical game. I’m not a dirty player, it’s physical. Everyone falls to the ground, everyone gets hurt, people get up.”

* Rivers has no desire to watch the game tape of Rondo's elbow injury: "I still haven’t seen it," he said. "I’ve heard that I don’t want to see it. I’ve never seen the [Joe] Theismann injury, and I don’t plan on seeing this one. But I’ve heard it was not the prettiest thing, and probably it helped me, honestly, that I didn’t see it, because if I had, from what I hear, it would’ve been tough to put him back in the game.”

* Rivers on injury concerns moving forward: "[Pierce] it was just cramps [with his left foot after spilling into the baseline cameramen in the second half]. Delonte {West] is a major concern, [because the] shoulder could be worse than what we thought. We’ll see.” West took a more optimistic approach on his bruised left shoulder: "It's alright. Still lingering, but nothing that should hold me out."

* Spoelstra on potential starting lineup adjustments: "I will evaluate everything, A to Z." ... Bosh on how he pinched a nerve in his neck: "I woke up.”