Hyperbole aside, there’s some truth in that headline. Let’s explore.
“It was funny. You could tell he needed the break with two minutes left. About two minutes in the quarter and I know his run. His head’s bobbing; you could just see it. And I called a punch, a post play for him and he called it off and tried to call a movement play and I called it back. And I went right back and said, “No, we’re going to the post. To you.” And Kevin’s nuts because when he scored, he’s running down the court [saying] ‘Get the ball to me!’ And I’m laughing, I said, ‘Yeah, that’s what we’re trying to do.’
Game three probably stands as KG’s best performance of the year.
In those frightening minutes before we knew Rajon Rondo was returning, Garnett was all over the defensive side of the court, contesting shots, providing weak side help. It was Garnett who took over the game emotionally (with an assist from Paul Pierce). It was Garnett who had to be talked out of seeking revenge against Dwayne Wade. And it was Garnett who tied his season-high with 28 points and set one with 18 rebounds.
Nobody on this Miami Heat team can really guard Garnett one-on-one. Chris Bosh has the requisite height but not the required intensity or strength. Joel Anthony is game but he’s too small. Udonis Haslem is in street clothes. And that’s just in single coverage. As Kevin Arnovitz noted in his recap of KG’s scores from game three, the threat of Pierce attacking, along with a batch of excellent screens by Jermaine O’Neal and KG himself, set up Garnett’s offense.
With Rondo hobbled, and Pierce and Ray Allen still facing exhausting covers, Garnett’s effectiveness is now utterly crucial to the C’s offense — and chances of winning this series.
There shouldn’t be any strategic failure. Everybody on this planet (Earth) knows that Doc wants KG shooting 20 times a game. And at least half of those people (Earthlings) know that Doc’s preferred shot selection for his PF involves KG rolling to the rim, and going at the rim from the post — with a spattering of turnaround jumpers and face-ups from the mid-range for balance.
(It’s here I’ll wistfully note that KG also has a lethal up-and-under move he brings out about three times a season and it’d be nice to see it tonight).
So, what’s standing in the way of a ‘Garnett dominates, eliminates Heat’ headline a week or so from now?
Short of Miami coming harder with a double-team, which will open up things for everyone else, I have two concerns.
(Although it makes a lot of sense to double off Rondo now, doesn’t it?)
First, go check Doc’s quote again. The coach was calling the plays down the stretch in the third. Not the PG. Much more than Delonte West, Rondo has the authority to get in KG’s face and insist he get down on the block if, for example, the big guy waves off a play call. If Rondo ends up sitting due to his injury, everyone else in green better be all over Garnett to get after it down in the post.
Second, Garnett has to be physically capable of carrying that kind of offensive burden four more times in eight days. He’s averaging 37.3 minutes in the second round (up from 34.0 in the first). And versus-Miami minutes aren’t the same as versus-New York minutes. Will KG be able to deliver if he’s continually asked to provide the kind of offensive punch he did on Saturday night? Will his defense suffer?
Big questions for the rest of the series.