Kevin Garnett spent the first half out on the bench cheering on his mates, but couldn't handle the anxiety of watching from the sidelines in street clothes and retired to the locker room for the second half.
Well, it wasn't Rick Pitino telling the media that Larry Bird's not walking through that door, as much as the Boston media would like you to believe it. But it might have been the next best thing, because in some ways, the message was the same.
Everybody needs to move on.
Doc Rivers made it as clear as possible (without staging a Pitino nutty) in his postgame address after the C's fell to the Bulls 105-103 in overtime: He won't be talking about Kevin Garnett, and neither should you.
Garnett will not be a factor this postseason, and if you're waiting for some sort of WWE return where he rips off his suit and starts ripping up the Bulls, the Magic, the Cavs, the Lakers or anyone else this postseason, well, you'll be disappointed.
"Guys, Kevin is not playing in this playoffs. I'm not answering Kevin Garnett questions," said Rivers, who rarely gets flustered in front of the media given his broadcasting background and keen awareness of what makes for a good storyline.
As Rivers told the media after practice on Thursday and Friday, Garnett was indeed on the bench at the start of the game today. He and Brian Scalabrine (who is slated to practice with the team on Tuesday and Wednesday in Chicago in the hopes of playing in Game 3 on Thursday) strolled down the hallway during the National Anthem and snuck to the bench under the cover of the darkness of opening lineups, but it didn't take long for KG to get involved.
Garnett spent most of the first half barking from the bench, pumping his fists at every play, shouting instructions to teammates and engrossing himself in the game.
Garnett, who's resisted sitting on the bench because he admittedly has a hard time controlling his emotions, returned to the locker room at the half and did not return in the second half. Whether or not he'll give it a go for Game 2 remains to be seen (the smart money is on KG remaining in the locker room), but either way, the fans, media and perhaps even some guys on the team need to move on.
"This is about the players in uniform. Kevin is gone," Rivers continued, after he initially made it clear that he wasn't attacking the reporter who'd asked the question. "And he ain't coming back. The guys in the uniform have to play."
So there you have it, "point blank period" as guys in the NBA like to say. KG is not coming back.
That means that the Celtics defense, once a dominant force to be reckoned with the league around, just won't be the same. Garnett was the NBA Defensive Player of the Year in 2007-08, and he's among the best big men when it comes to stopping the pick and roll. He covers more ground than most, so when he comes to the top of the key to meet the play at the point of attack, he's still got enough time to recover at the basket and block a shot.
More than anything, though, Garnett intimidates his opponents, something that Leon Powe, Big Baby and Mikki Moore, try as they might, just aren't able to do. They'll all give you effort, they'll all give you second effort and they all bring their own elements to the table. But at the end of the day, KG is a missile defense system and they're burglar alarms. KG never lets the enemy hit it's target, while the others alert the authorities but can't do much to stop you once you've gotten inside.
Derrick Rose, the Bulls' rookie point guard playing in his first postseason game, had his hand in the proverbial cookie jar all night long. He had 36 points, but what impressed his head coach Vinny Del Negro (also a rookie, coaching his first playoff game) was the 11 assists.
Either way, the Celtics have some adjustments to make on the defensive end.
"We can't allow Rose to just get into the lane at will, all night long. We have to do a better job in our pick-and-roll defense," Pierce said, also noting that his missed free throw at the end of regulation cost the Celtics the game. "It just got to the point where he was scoring the ball or finding the open man."
Rivers pointed out that the Celtics came out flat, let the Bulls gain confidence, and the next thing they knew, they were stuck in an overtime game. "I thought early on the first half -- first of all we had no defensive energy," Rivers said. "I mean, to think that we worked on transition 'D' for two days and the first play of the game (Joakim) Noah gets a dunk. Now, that was extremely disappointing."
Disappointed is one thing. Defeated is another, and trailing the Bulls 1-0 in the series, the C's will regroup for what's said to be a short practice tomorrow in Waltham. The C's know what they have to do. Next game, they just have to come out and do it.