BOSTON -- It'll come as little surprise to anyone who has watched him head-butt the hoop upright before the start of a game, but Boston Celtics forward Kevin Garnett admits that he's often so wound up with intensity that he doesn't always remember exactly how things have played out over the course of the contest.
Asked about a key theft of Jared Jeffries in the final moments of Tuesday's Game 2 triumph over the New York Knicks, Garnett struggled to recall exactly what he was thinking or what he saw as the play developed.
"What's crazy is I don't remember anything about tonight," Garnett said.
He missed a heck of a game and a bit of a turn-back-the-clock effort for himself.
While Garnett truly might not remember that play, other than the result, he absolutely remembered the Knicks' possession before it. For a player who prides himself so much on defense, Garnett was still smarting over allowing Jeffries to get to the hoop for a go-ahead layup with 19.3 seconds to play.
So even after he answered with a pivotal "move-out-of-my-way, I-got-this" jump hook at the other end that proved to be the difference in a 96-93 Eastern Conference quarterfinal triumph at TD Garden (which gave the Green a 2-0 series lead), Garnett still sought atonement for his defensive transgression.
Here's what Garnett couldn't quite remember: After Jeffries set a pick on Paul Pierce to get a smoldering Carmelo Anthony the ball, Jeffries rolled free toward the right blocks when Glen Davis rushed to double-team New York's top threat. Garnett scrambled to help, and when Jeffries tried to sneak a pass to a cutting Bill Walker in the lane, Garnett not only knocked down the feed, but fell on the ball and managed to call a timeout with 4.1 ticks to go.
"I should have fouled [Jeffries] the first time," said Garnett, who clearly hadn't forgotten that defensive miscue.
"In the course of the game, you're processing so much and it was unfortunate. But I made sure the second time I was going to either have him score over me or make him make a decision."
For the second straight game, Garnett and his teammates buckled down and made the plays when they mattered most. The defensive stand probably shouldn't come as a surprise for a player that finished second in the voting for Defensive Player of the Year on Monday.
What's harder to recall for both Garnett -- and anyone else -- is when the last time was that Boston put the ball in his hands for a crucial late-game possession in the postseason. According to ESPN researchers, the Celtics have had nine occasions during the Big Three era in which they've needed a go-ahead basket in the final 10 seconds of a postseason game and haven't turned to Garnett once.
In Game 1, Garnett's alley-oop dunk in the final minute only helped pave the way for Ray Allen's winning 3-pointer with 11.6 seconds to play. But on Tuesday, when the Knicks denied Pierce the inbounds pass after Jeffries' go-ahead layup, the ball went to Garnett and he didn't even consider giving it up.
Facing a double-team on the post after receiving the ball from Rajon Rondo, Garnett found himself one-on-one with Jeffries after Rondo sprinted through, clearing out the lane as Toney Douglas chased. After nearly losing the ball -- as he had in a similar situation earlier in the game -- Garnett took a few dribbles with his back to the basket, then delivered the right-handed hook that splashed gently through the twine for a 94-93 lead with 13.3 seconds left.
Knicks coach Mike D'Antoni chronicled all the available options on the play before saying with a sigh, "Garnett made a nice shot and I thought Jared did everything he could to stop it."
"It was a tough shot," Jeffries said. "We wanted to send him middle and not give him his baseline shot, which is his bread-and-butter shot, and he made it. When he went middle, he made a tough, contested shot."
Pierce said the Celtics went over the decisive offensive play at the team's morning shootaround. And while Pierce is most likely to end up with the ball in that type of situation, Boston proved again how difficult it is to key on one player.
"I think Kevin is the first option when he comes and down-screens for me," Pierce said. "If he's open, Coach wants me to give it to him. And then, if not, that's where I get the ball up top for a pick-and-roll. The execution was key. Fortunately that was a play we drew up this morning. That's all about paying attention to the X's and O's and concentrating on executing down the stretch."
"KG struggled a little bit offensively, but like I said the other day with Ray, we trust all of our guys," coach Doc Rivers said. "We drew up the play and it was for Kevin or Paul. If they tried to deny the ball to Paul, I told Rondo that means that Kevin has to be open because there's only a certain amount of bodies on the floor.
"And they did try to deny Paul, which allowed us to get a deep post for Kevin. Rondo made a great cut so they couldn't double team; he was the only guy under the basket. They double-teamed and he was sitting there by himself. And we put Delonte [West] on the floor so we had more shooting. And it was a great shot for [Garnett]."
Garnett scored 12 points on 6-of-16 shooting with 10 rebounds, six assists, a block and a steal over 36:13. It's his second double-double of the postseason and watching him take over at the end made Glen Davis a little nostalgic.
"When you go all the way back to when we won it [in 2008], Kevin was hitting game-winners like that all the time, so that kind of reminded me of the first year we won it," Davis said. "That's a good feeling to know that Kevin is getting in the post and making himself a serious threat, and that's what we need him to do down the stretch."
And there's no doubt Garnett remembers the taste of that title. Rivers has often said he might be the most important piece of the Boston puzzle to getting there again. On Tuesday, he reminded us all why.
Chris Forsberg covers the Celtics for ESPNBoston.com.