Garnett Quietly Carried Celtics in Round 1 Sweep
WALTHAM, Mass. – The Celtics feel as if they're starting to turn a corner after erasing the Knicks in four straight games, and a major factor has been the solid play of Kevin Garnett.
While much of the media's attention has been on Shaq's status (and the latest update is that Doc Rivers hopes he'll practice on Friday), Garnett's postseason performance has been largely overlooked despite four very strong games from the Big Ticket.
It's hard to describe anything about Garnett as "quiet", because when he takes the court he's about as intense an athlete as you'll find. But with all the attention paid to Ray Allen's long-range shooting (17-for-26 for 65 percent on 3-pointers), Paul Pierce's 38-point outburst or Rondo's crazy triple-double, Garnett's presence in the paint went largely unnoticed.
The homepage poll on Celtics.com tells it all: Asked who was the series MVP against the Knicks, less than 9 percent of Celtics fans chose "Kevin Garnett." You can forgive them for overlooking the Big Ticket, but when you examine his first-round stats, it's eye opening.
Once an injury question mark given the issues he's had with his knee and calf over the last few seasons, Garnett appears to be in peak form this postseason, averaging 15.5 points, 11.3 rebounds and 3.5 assists in four games vs. New York. He also hit the go-ahead turnaround hook that stood up as the game-winner in Game 2, and came up with the final steal that salted the game away.
If there was anyone who didn't overlook KG, it was the Knicks, who doubled him on the post regularly when he caught the ball.
"They tried to take him out of the series. Every time he touched it they trapped him. We went away from trying to post him because of all the trapping," Celtics Coach Doc Rivers said.
That defensive attention held him to shooting just 45 percent from the field, but Garnett made up for it on the other end by posting four straight double-digit rebounding games, the first time he's done so since the end of February. He was looking to start the break for Rondo with aggressive outlet passes after his rebounds, and when double-teams cloaked him, Garnett was kicking the ball back out of the post. Off the ball, he was setting picks to free up his teammates and keeping the offense flowing for Pierce and Allen.
"What it allowed us to get was everything else," Rivers said of the Knicks trapping Garnett. "We ran a ton of movement stuff, and Kevin's great in that as well."
And while Garnett's mostly thought of as a defensive threat these days, he proved in the final game of the series that he can still fill it up when needed. His Game 4 performance of 26 points was his second-highest scoring output of the season. Garnett dropped 28 points on 12-for-14 shooting vs. Phoenix at TD Garden on March 2, but the stakes weren't quite as high as they were this Sunday, when the Celtics wanted to stomp out any signs of life from the Knicks before they could get a chance to gain any confidence and extend the series.
Not surprisingly, Garnett didn't talk to the media before Wednesday's practice session, and at this point, there really wasn't much to say at the time, as the Heat had yet to knock off the Sixers. But know that Miami has advanced, they'll have their hands full with an improved Garnett in the Conference Semifinals. Compared to his regular season numbers of 14.9 points, 8.9 rebounds and 2.4 assists, Garnett has ratcheted up his game for the playoffs. And if there's another level to reach, KG's proven he can dial it up when needed.