Kevin Garnett at work vs. Miami.In many ways, this past season was a bounce-back year for Kevin Garnett. The 2009-2010 campaign saw him still trying to shake off the longstanding effects from right knee surgery, but at the start of the year, it was evident Garnett closer resembled the explosive defensive catalyst and rebounding force everyone in Boston was hoping he could still be.
While the Celtics as a team might have come up short in their quest for another championship, Garnett's individual accomplishments were nothing to sneeze at. He made his 14th All-Star appearance, was named to the NBA's All-Defensive First Team, and finished second in Defensive Player of the Year voting behind only Dwight Howard of the Orlando Magic. Not too shabby for the now 35-year old power forward.
Here's a look back at five of Garnett's finest performances from the 2010-2011 season, in reverse chronological order starting with the most recent:
May 7: Celtics 97, Heat 81 (Game 3) -- 28 points, 18 rebounds
It was Kevin Garnett's finest performance of the entire Eastern Conference semifinals, and hands down one of his best showings in a Boston uniform. It was a throwback game, an ode to his days as the NBA's Most Valuable Player, as he carried the Celtics in a critical Game 3 against the Miami Heat. With his team facing a 2-0 series hole, Garnett went to work in the post and torched the Heat for 28 points, with 14 of them coming in a pivotal third quarter that saw the Celtics turn a two-point deficit into an 11-point advantage heading into the final frame. Garnett shot a blistering 9-of-13 on field goals taken less than 10 feet from the rim, routinely exploiting the helpless defense of Chris Bosh and Joel Anthony.
April 24: Celtics 101, Knicks 89 (Game 4) -- 26 points, 10 rebounds, 2 blocks
With the Celtics a game away from a successful first-round sweep of the New York Knicks, Garnett followed up a quiet first half in which he scored only six points by exploding for 20 more over the final 24 minutes, as the C's closed the book on Broadway and sent the Knicks packing for the summer (actually, they were probably already packed at that point). Garnett scored 12 points in the third quarter, including eight straight at one point that pushed Boston's lead to a convincing 22. New York would rally in the fourth quarter, but Garnett would bury two crucial mid-range jump shots off of pick-and-pop plays with Rajon Rondo to help silence the Knicks for good.
March 21: Celtics 96, Knicks 86 -- 24 points, 11 rebounds, 4 steals
In three regular season games against the Knicks, Garnett averaged 22.7 points on 62.5 percent shooting to go along with 11.3 rebounds -- some of his finest numbers against any one opponent. In the third meeting between the two clubs the intensity reached new heights and the Knicks put the Celtics in a 15-point hole midway through the second quarter. But after trailing by 14 at halftime, Garnett helped the Celtics respond in the third frame, as he scored Boston's first eight points of the second half and 10 overall in the third quarter as the C's slashed their deficit to just six going into the final frame. Paul Pierce was the Celtics' closer with 13 points over the final 12 minutes, but Garnett was the perfect setup man, helping to put Boston back in a manageable spot for when Pierce came alive.
March 2: Celtics 115, Suns 103 -- 28 points, 11 rebounds, 2 blocks
This was a response game of sorts for Garnett. After getting ejected in the fourth quarter of the Celtics' 88-71 loss to the Suns back in January after a dust-up with Channing Frye, Garnett retaliated in the finest of manners: By thoroughly dominating with his play on the court. As tough as Frye tried to act back in January, there was nothing he could say on this night, as Garnett abused him to the tune of 28 points. Garnett buried his first five shots, scoring 12 points in the opening frame in less than 10 minutes of action. His expected intensity was present from the start, and lasted all the way to final buzzer, as he drew a technical foul with 16 seconds remaining after exchanging words with Suns coach Alvin Gentry. Gentry might have gotten a few choice words in, but a dominant Garnett and the Celtics walked away with the victory.
Jan. 30: Celtics 109, Lakers 96 -- 18 points, 13 rebounds, 5 assists
The game marked the Celtics' first trip to the Staples Center since their devastating Game 7 loss to the Lakers in the 2010 NBA Finals, and a win would further help the ongoing healing process. Garnett served as an integral part of Boston's solid 13-point victory, as he closer resembled the 2008 version of himself who owned Pau Gasol in the post, as opposed to the 2010 version who was unable to dominate the Lakers' All-Star forward in the same fashion. Not even a second-quarter gash to the top of the head that required the world's largest Band-Aid was enough to slow Garnett down. If anything, the shot to the head woke a sleeping beast, as Garnett scored 14 of his 18 points after he returned from getting bandaged up in the locker room. It was one of Garnett's most efficient efforts in a game that held just a little bit more meaning than your average regular-season affair.
Greg Payne is a student intern for ESPNBoston.com