Celtics Must Keep KG Out of Foul Trouble

BOSTON – Kevin Garnett is one of the most impactful players in the entire NBA, yet he hasn’t had much of an influence on Boston’s first-round series against New York. Foul trouble has drastically limited his ability to change the outcome of the first two games of the series.

Garnett has collected five fouls in each of the first two games. There hasn’t been another player in the series who has picked up more than seven total fouls.

Felton, KG

Raymond Felton has put a lot of pressure on Boston's defense, particularly on Kevin Garnett.
Nathaniel S. Butler/NBAE/Getty Images

Those facts are an indication that something needs to change in order for the C’s to keep their big man on the floor. Atop the list of priorities is improving the team’s perimeter defense, which would prevent the need for Garnett to help defend guards in the paint.

“You’ve got to keep the guards out of the paint,” Doc Rivers said during a conference call on Wednesday.

Moments later, Rivers said, “We’ve got to protect him better, really, and the better way to do that is to keep him on the right matchups. And I thought his first three fouls were all bad matchups that hurt him.”

In fact, most of Garnett’s fouls in this series have been committed against players he wasn’t directly defending. He has fouled the opposing team’s center only three times. Garnett’s other seven fouls have been committed against New York’s slashers or on illegal screens at the other end of the floor.

The only way to avoid putting KG into tough matchups is to play better perimeter defense. In other words, the Celtics are calling on Avery Bradley, Jason Terry, Jordan Crawford, Paul Pierce and Courtney Lee to step up. That fivesome has held the bulk of the defensive responsibility against New York’s guards.

Of those Knicks guards, Raymond Felton has been the man who has wreaked the most havoc on Boston’s defense. He has been taking the ball off of the dribble and getting to any spot he wants on the floor. Garnett hasn’t actually committed a foul against Felton during this series, but Felton’s ability to get into the paint has resulted in KG being left in some tough defensive positions.

Bradley and Lee serve as Boston’s top perimeter defenders. That’s why their teammates call them the pit bulls. Bradley hasn’t been able to keep Felton out of the paint, and Lee has only played 24 total minutes in the series. Those two in particular can provide a shield for Garnett that will keep No. 5 out of harm’s way.

With that shield being nonexistent during Games 1 and 2, Garnett struggled through foul trouble. He played just 24 minutes Tuesday night in Game 2, and his 37 minutes during Game 1 were very sporadic. He just wasn’t able to catch a rhythm as a result.

“I actually thought Kevin started out great,” Rivers said of Tuesday’s game. “You could see he was aggressive, he was getting in his spots. You get into foul trouble like he did, and he really never was allowed to get into his rhythm again.

“We got him right to the right spots that we wanted to, but again, he was sitting next to me a lot.”

As we all know, it’s difficult for a player to alter an NBA game while he’s sitting on the bench. The Celtics need to figure out a way to keep the Big Ticket on the floor during this series. That’s the only way he’s going to be able make the type of impact he’s known for.