Even with Kevin Garnett back in the lineup, the Boston Celtics are suddenly being hurt by their defense.
That certainly wasn't a problem against the Golden State Warriors earlier this season.
Coming off their worst defensive performance of 2007-08, the Celtics look to slow down the Warriors' high-scoring offense again when the teams conclude their season series on Wednesday night.
Garnett returned from a nine-game absence on Tuesday, but Boston (41-10) lost 124-118 to Denver in the opener of a five-game road trip. Garnett, who had been out since Jan. 25 with a strained abdominal muscle, had just four points on 2-of-7 shooting in nearly 21 minutes.
"It was good to get back," Garnett said. "It felt good."
Garnett didn't play with his usual high energy, and the Celtics ended up surrendering a season high in points. Boston is second in the league in scoring defense, allowing 90.1 points per game, but has surrendered an average of 113.5 in its last two contests.
The Celtics beat New York 111-103 last Wednesday in their final game before the All-Star break.
Boston coach Doc Rivers limited Garnett's minutes on Tuesday, and it's uncertain if the star will see his time on the floor increase in this contest. Garnett is averaging 18.9 points, 9.8 rebounds, 1.4 steals and 1.3 blocks per game.
He also is the anchor of the Celtics' defense, which held Golden State (32-21) to a season low in points in a 105-82 win on Nov. 21. The Warriors shot 33.3 percent (29-for-87) from the field - also a season low - in that game.
Golden State has been held under 90 points only twice, and tops the league in scoring at 109.9 points a contest. The Warriors are averaging 113.5 points while going 12-5 in their last 17, including a 119-109 loss to Utah on Tuesday.
"We have a big game (Wednesday) and some good games coming up, and we need to get back to getting our rhythm," Warriors guard Baron Davis said.
But the status of Stephen Jackson, one of Golden State's top scorers, is uncertain after he left in the third quarter with a sprained left ankle. Jackson is averaging a career-best 20.9 points per game.
Warriors coach Don Nelson ended up pulling all of his starters late in the third quarter with the Jazz pulling away. Al Harrington led Golden State with 21 points. He missed November's matchup with Boston due to personal reasons.
The Warriors, meanwhile, also must contend with a Celtics offense that is averaging 111.0 points in its last three games. Garnett, Paul Pierce and Ray Allen combined for 60 points versus Golden State earlier this season.
Pierce scored 24 versus the Nuggets, and is averaging 27.8 while shooting 50.0 percent from the field (33-for-66) and 44.0 percent (11-for-25) from 3-point range in his last four games.
Allen, fresh off his 28-point performance for the Eastern Conference in its 134-128 win in Sunday's All-Star game, added 20 against Denver. The veteran guard is averaging 30.3 points in his last seven games against Golden State.
Boston has lost three straight and nine of its last 11 in Oakland.
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