On the defensive end, where Doc Rivers team has cashed its paychecks and even hoisted a championship banner, the Celtics were tasked with slowing down a one-man show. Offensively, Boston looked to exploit a depleted Knicks frontcourt on the shoulders of a first-ballot Hall of Famer (via Baxter Holmes of The Boston Globe).
But things didn't quite go as planned.
For starters, that one-man show was the best offensive weapon in the business, reigning scoring champion Carmelo Anthony. Despite Boston's best efforts, Anthony still found his way to his second 30-plus point performance in as many games.
And that Hall of Famer was 36-year-old Kevin Garnett, a player perhaps limited equally by the unforgiving grip of Father Time and the incessant chirps of the official's whistles.
His first run of the night came to an abrupt end, via Jeff Zillgitt of USA Today:
So much for getting Kevin Garnett involved. He just picked up his second foul. Still more than eight minutes left in the first quarter.— Jeff Zillgitt (@JeffZillgitt) April 24, 2013
And things didn't get any easier when he returned to the floor, via Gary Washburn of The Boston Globe:
Kevin Garnett picks up his 3rd foul just trying to avoid Carmelo, tough call, KG will spend the last 5:30 of half on the bench— gary washburn (@GwashNBAGlobe) April 24, 2013
The Celtics big man racked up five fouls in his 24 minutes, finishing the night with 12 points and 11 rebounds.
Perhaps his quiet night wouldn't have resonated so loudly without the team's overall struggles on the offensive end. The Knicks handed the Celtics an 87-71 defeat as Boston managed just 23 points in the second half.
And Rivers' attempt to buy his team some easy offensive chances against the under-manned Knicks fell woefully short, via ESPN Stats & Info:
The Celtics scored 24 points in the paint in Game 2. That's tied for the lowest single-game output this season.— ESPN Stats & Info (@ESPNStatsInfo) April 24, 2013
The pressing question for Celtics fans should extend beyond this postseason, though.
Despite what the Boston well wishers want to think, this wasn't going to be an extended playoff stay. If season-ending injuries to Rajon Rondo and Jared Sullinger weren't telling enough, then the team's less than impressive 41-40 regular-season record certainly was.
As attention shifts toward next season, the Celtics center will be facing another tough decision about his future in the league. He pondered retirement last offseason before inking a three-year, $34 million contract with the franchise.
Outside of loyalty, which admittedly carries a stronger influence with Garnett than perhaps with any other player in the league, what will be the drawing factor for him to play out his final two seasons?
The Miami Heat's Big Three isn't going anywhere, at least not for another season. The Chicago Bulls will finally get a healthy Derrick Rose back in the lineup. The New York Knicks and Brooklyn Nets will have another year to gel.
Where does an aging Celtics team factor into the Eastern Conference picture in 2013-14? Is a full season of Jeff Green in the starting lineup enough to push them into the upper echelon? How much does Garnett have left in his tank, and what can he expect to get out of Paul Pierce at this stage of his career?
These are all things Garnett must consider over the summer.
A summer that could be starting any day now.