Monday, April 8, 2013

The Garnett Factor

Even with age Kevin Garnett continues to prove his value to the Boston Celtics. Most recently without even being on the floor. Fortunately Garnett, as well as Paul Pierce, returned to the lineup Sunday night and we were able to catch a glimpse of this season's full strength Celtics (keeping in mind Rondo and Sullinger are on the shelf for the year).

Boston has struggled to win what should be easy games, by letting up far too many points against subpar offenses. Since Jeff Green's game winner in Indiana on March 6th, two home wins against Atlanta are really all the Celtics have to brag about and that is not much to go on. Simple put this team is lost without Garnett. I wrote here why you should love this team so much, take Garnett away and all of that becomes worthless. It starts with his defense and trickles down to the emotion that he infects his teammates with. Garnett is the single most important piece to Boston's success.

After Sunday's victory  over the Washington Wizards (a team that has been over .500 with John Wall in uniform) teammates crowded around Garnett to photobomb his post game interview. Smiles on all their faces to have the veteran back in the lineup. It had noting to do with why they won the game, but plenty to do with why the Celtics will give the Knicks or Pacers a run for their money as first round underdogs in the playoffs. The kids on this team look up to KG, and his presence on the floor makes them better players.

Alongside a healthy Garnett, it's no secret that captain Paul Pierce will need to get his ankle healthy enough to put forward the clutch playoff performances his team is accustom to. Despite all the recent struggles, who is to say this team will not find themselves right back in the East Finals against Miami if they find good health?

Three things become vital outside of the obvious need for Pierce and Garnett for a shot at Miami to become reality. The first is some kind of emergence of Jason Terry. Terry has shown flashes this year, but is still yet to be a consistent contributor off the bench. If JET can put forward a strong postseason he could be a big shot in the arm for Boston.

The second thing is Avery Bradley handling the point guard role. No doubt Bradley is going to be key to success starting with his role to lock down a key perimeter opponent. But he also is going to be in charge of a lot of ball handling duties. He will get help from Pierce and Jeff Green, but Bradley is going to have to bring the ball up in some pressure situations that are normally overlooked as a problem if Rondo is around.

And finally there is Jeff Green. On nights he is the best player on the team... on one night he was almost the best player on the floor in a game that LeBron James played in. But then there are the inconsistent nights. He finally seems to be coming around though, the Wizards game was his first game in single digits in points since March 12th. In his last six games, four of them he has scored 23, 27, 27, and 34 points.

Doc Rivers has given in and now starts Green and has moved Pierce to the shooting guard spot. The playoffs are going to be Green's stage to establish himself as a star in the NBA, time will tell what he is able to make of it.

Now those are all the reasons the Celtics could fight their way back to the Conference Finals, but can they beat Miami? Highly doubtful. But last time they met Boston gave themselves plenty of reasons to believe they can without their centerpiece in the lineup, with Garnett back anything could be possible.

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