Kevin Garnett may be 38 years old, but he remains one of the most versatile defenders in the NBA. When KG needs to switch onto a guard, it's a fair bet that he will be able to stick on the ballhandler and force a tough shot. Not being the defensive force he used to be does not mean that he can't make an impact.
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Sometimes, though, Garnett's excellent defense is not enough, which the Minnesota Timberwolves learned in Monday night's game vs. the Los Angeles Clippers at Target Center. With under a minute remaining and the Clippers up 106-103, Garnett switched onto Chris Paul after a pick from DeAndre Jordan. As he has so many times in his career, he stuck with one of the league's best ballhandlers. But Paul made several moves to get just enough space and altered his shot to make sure it would not be blocked:
This fantastic bucket served as the dagger in the Clippers' 110-105 win, but the context makes it even more clutch. Los Angeles played without Jamal Crawford and Matt Barnes throughout the game and lost J.J. Redick to a quick two-technical ejection for jawing at referees less than 30 seconds prior, which means that Paul and Spencer Hawes were effectively the only shooting threats on the court for the Clippers at the time. It was all part of a tremendous night for CP3, who finished with 26 points (12-of-20 FG), 14 assists, three steals, and just one turnover.
Despite Paul's dominant performance, the Wolves blew a great chance at grabbing an impressive home win due to some poor late-game shooting. Minnesota failed to convert a field goal after the 10:18 mark of the fourth quarter, missing their last 10 attempts and subsisting only on 17 tries at the charity stripe.
The final period was not normal, to put it mildly. It reached its apex of weirdness with 3:23 remaining, when a Wolves trap forced Paul to call a timeout with only a few seconds on the shot clock. As Garnett clapped in celebration, Clippers guard Austin Rivers, a player whose reputation for intensity does not come close to matching that of KG, decided to bump into the future Hall of Famer:
Both Rivers and Garnett were handed technical fouls for the incident. Perhaps this moment was an additional gift from KG to the 1,000 lucky fans to whom he'd already given tickets, because I'm pretty sure the NBA will never see a Kevin Garnett vs. Austin Rivers fight again in its history.
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