by John Furgele
The NBA got what it wanted: another game in the NBA Finals as the Lakers and Celtics head back to the new Boston Garden for Game 6 and possibly/hopefully Game 7. Through the first five games, two things have become clear. One, the Boston Celtics are the better team, and two, Kevin Garnett has been a disappointment.
Even though the Celtics are better, the Lakers could still win this series. Granted, they would have to become the first team to win Games 6 and 7 on the road to do so, but these games have been relatively close that this could happen, improbable as it may be. Should Los Angeles lose, they will kick themselves for losing Game 4 in the fashion that they did. No, that doesn’t mean that they would be up 3-2, but playing Game 5 at 2-2 as opposed to down 3-1 is a monumental difference.
Now, to Kevin Garnett. I don’t think there is a person in the league, or a person who is an NBA fan that doesn’t like Kevin Garnett. He plays hards, plays tremendous defense and has always been a good ambassador for the league, but his offensive play in the finals has been atrocious. Yes, that may seem a bit rough because Garnett has never been a go-to-no-matter-what offensive guy ala Shaqullie O’Neal, Tim Duncan or even Patrick Ewing, but Garnett seems scared to make moves when he gets the ball in the low post.
Too often, the Celts get the ball to Garnett and he gives it right back to Pierce, Allen, or any person nearby wearing a green or white Boston jersey. Watching this is frustrating. I see him get the ball, and I say to myself “take him, take him,” then watch as KG kicks the ball out. With a 3-2 series lead heading back to Boston, coach Doc Riivers and the Boston faithful are likely to overlook or let Garnett’s disappointing offensive play go, but should they lose, KG will feel some heat.
The other frustrating part of the Garnett enigma is the person that is guarding him. Pau Gasol has never been known as a stellar defensive player, making Garnett’s hesitancy all the more bewildering. Of course, everybody calls Gasol soft, and that may not be fair either, but once a player gets a reputation in the NBA, it is very hard to overcome or change it. But, the facts are the facts. Garnett is the same height as Gasol, he’s quicker than Gasol and he has a much bigger wingspan than Gasol. Why he isn’t taking advantage of those strenghts is more than puzzling.
Garnett had a chance to tie the game, but missed two free throws, one badly, and made only 1 of 4 in the fourth quarter’s final moments. Champions are going to make those shots and champions want the ball late in the game. Paul Pierce has no fears, nor does Ray Allen, but for some reason, Garnett is taking himself out of the game on the offensive end.
In Minnesota, Garnett was accused of the same thing, of not being aggressive enough, of not getting the Timberwolves out of the first round. While there, he did get to the Wolves to one Western Conference Final, but they were dispatched by the Lakers. Some even stated that the playoff losses didn’t bother him that much.
Perhaps heading back to the new Garden will be the tonic for him. Maybe he comes out, gets 25 and the Celtics celebrate their 17th NBA title. But, if some reason that the Lakers pull out two wins, Garnett will once again will have to face the fire.