Celtics forward Kevin Garnett had his best game of the series to help eliminate the Hawks from the playoffs Thursday and then credited Hawks co-owner Michael Gearon Jr. for providing him extra motivation.
Gearon, in a public speech at a local charity event Wednesday, called Garnett “the dirtiest guy in the game.” Gearon’s comments appeared in an ajc.com blog post Wednesday and made their way to Garnett, who began his postgame comments by criticizing Gearon.
“First off, I want to say, ‘Thank you,’ to their owner for giving me some extra gas tonight,” Garnett said after Boston’s 83-80 victory in Game 6. “My only advice to him is next time he opens his mouth, actually know what he’s talking about, X’s and O’s versus checkbooks and bottom lines.”
Gearon, through a Hawks spokesman, declined to respond to Garnett’s comments. Gearon was the featured speaker at the “Art of It” luncheon at the Piedmont Park Conservancy. The event was sponsored by the W.E.B. Du Bois Society, an Atlanta-based nonprofit.
Garnett led all players Thursday with 28 points, 14 rebounds, five blocked shots and three steals. After the game Garnett, a famed trash talker on the court, said he was offended by Gearon’s comments.
“You have to understand the word ‘dirty’ in this game is very defined,” he said. “Going under guys, trying to hurt guys, ill intent — [that’s] not they way we play basketball. ... We play with a lot of passion, play with force. It’s the playoffs, but I’m not trying to hurt anybody, nor has my teammates.”
The NBA admitted Friday that a tardy foul call on the Celtics late in Game 6 cost the Hawks an extra free throw.
With 3.1 seconds left in the game and the Hawks trailing 81-79, Boston’s Marquis Daniels was called for fouling Hawks center Al Horford as teammate Marvin Williams was about to inbound the ball. By rule, if a personal foul is assessed against the defense before the ball is released on a throw-in, the offense is awarded one free throw and possession of the ball.
Coach Larry Drew said officials told him Daniels fouled Horford after Williams released the ball. The league office, in a post on one of its official Twitter feeds Friday, agreed but said the replay showed “the foul on Daniels should have been called sooner than it was by the officials, in which case it would have met the requirements of an Away-From-The-Play Foul.”
The Hawks protested the call during the game, to no avail.
“That would have been a huge play, a huge turn of events,” Hawks forward Josh Smith said.
A league spokesman said the rules do not allow game officials to review the replay to determine when the ball is thrown in or when the foul is committed.
Horford returned to play in Game 4 after missing all games since he was injured Jan. 11. He subsequently had surgery to repair a torn left pectoral. He said he has only about 50 or 60 percent strength in the injured area and would resume rehabilitation now that the season is over.
Horford had initially ruled himself out for the series before deciding to return the day of Game 4.
“I don’t regret any of that,” he said. “I feel like I went out and played and gave everything I had.”
Horford missed a free throw with 2.3 seconds left and the Hawks trailing 81-79.
“I felt pretty confident shooting the free throws,” he said. “I was surprised that the first one came out.”
Horford said he erred in not trying to purposely miss the second attempt. The Hawks had no timeouts left.
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Credit: Jason Getz / Jason.Getz@ajc.com