BOSTON -- Twice, Kevin Garnett appeared on the giant video screen in the fourth quarter of Monday night's nail-biter, reminding the fans in a taped message what they needed to do.
"What ya waitin' for? It's the fourth quarter," he blared to the capacity crowd in the message intended to fire up the fans at TD Garden. That was with 4:55 to play and the Celtics trailing 79-78.
Two minutes later, he was back. "This is it! I need to feel it."
Indeed he did.
Too bad KG didn't follow his own advice.
Forty-eight hours after delivering a Back to the Future special (28 points, 18 rebounds, his best game of the 2011 playoffs by far), the "Big Ticket" pretty much came up punchless in the Celtics' 98-90 overtime Game 4 loss to Miami, dropping them into a 3-1 hole in the best-of-seven Eastern Conference semifinal series.
It was almost Dickensian in its drop-off: the best of times to the worst of times. Two nights earlier, he had played a game that had Miami coach Erik Spoelstra comparing him to Kareem Abdul-Jabbar. After Game 4, Spoelstra went into coach-speak mode, calling Garnett "a champion," and would not admit to the obvious, other than to say, "He had one of those nights."
He sure did. Even more humbling for Garnett, he got outplayed by the heretofore Heat cipher, Chris Bosh, whom he dismissed postgame by saying, "Next question," when asked about the Miami forward's game. For the record, Bosh had 20 points, 12 rebounds and a gigantic tip-in basket with 24.2 seconds left in OT that gave the Heat a 95-90 lead.
Garnett finished with seven points, the second game in this series in which he has scored fewer than 10 points. He had six in the series-opening loss in Miami. He bricked his final nine shots after making his first, and only, basket of the game, a 20-foot jumper with 5:15 left in the first quarter. He did grab 10 rebounds in his 41-plus minutes, all off the defensive glass.
But he failed to set a pick on the final play of regulation -- a play the Celtics have run about 10,000 times -- which forced Paul Pierce (27 points) to go solo and miss the potential game winner, and series evener, at the buzzer.
"We're kicking ourselves over that," Ray Allen said. Allen was one of the options on the play that never materialized because the pick-and-roll never materialized. Added Rajon Rondo, "[There was] a lot of talking during the huddle [prior to the play] and there wasn't enough listening, I don't believe."
No one identified Garnett as the culprit, but he is the unofficial team motormouth. Asked about Rondo's comment, he said, "We're a talkative group, but once we're on the floor, it's about actions. The talking doesn't really result into [anything]. The actions do."
And when you don't set the pick, the player, Pierce in this instance, ends up, in the words of coach Doc Rivers, "on the island." Then, on the first possession of overtime, Garnett threw the ball away, the second of his two turnovers.
He looked out of sorts and out of sync much of the night.
"I didn't really have the rhythm that I had the other night," said Garnett, who was 13-of-20 from the field in Game 3. "I expected them to make some adjustments, but you make them, you make them, you miss them, you miss them. I don't think that's where the game was won. I think defense -- we've been preaching this the whole series, that defense is where this thing is going to be won at, and we needed the stops; we didn't get them."
He's probably right about that, although you could say that anytime Kevin Garnett makes one basket -- and the game goes into overtime -- that that in and of itself could be a reason for concern. But the Celtics got clobbered on the boards and coughed it up 18 times, leading to 28 Miami points, so there was plenty of blame to go around.
Still, you have a right to expect the most prominent member of your Big Three to come up, well, big, when the stakes are highest. The Miami big three certainly did, combining for all but 15 of the Heat's 98 points -- and all but four in the second half and overtime. Allen shook off a slow start and finished with 17. Pierce had his 27, including some clutch hoops down the stretch. But Garnett was nowhere near what he needed to be.
"We've got to do a better job of just getting him the ball in the right spots to where he can go to work," Pierce said.
Rivers did a veritable minuet when asked about Garnett's play. Was Garnett too reluctant in the game, he was asked?
"I don't know," Rivers said. "They trapped him a couple times, and I thought he was probably looking more for traps. We have to get him down there more. We tried. So, I don't know. I don't think so. I think he was looking for -- he was looking to be a passer more than being an aggressive scorer. And that was that."
Spoelstra, for one, is hoping the next 48 hours won't be enough time to get Garnett juiced again. Before Garnett's big performance in Game 3, there had been two not-so-great games and three days before the next game. Now, there's just one day before Garnett gets another chance at redemption.
"I'm not going to say anything about him,'' Spoelstra said. "Now he's got 48 hours to gain all his fuel again and fuel him up. I'm sure if I actually paid attention, that everybody will be saying whatever they will be saying about him. He's a champion. I have incredible respect for him."
Longtime Celtics reporter Peter May is a frequent contributor to ESPNBoston.com.