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Kevin Garnett will not play against Bulls
by Sam Smith
Posted on Apr 16
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Now this really changes everything.
I woke up Thursday to hear that Kevin Garnett probably will miss the first round playoff series between the Bulls and Boston Celtics starting in Boston Saturday.
That should wake up the Bulls.
Suddenly, the template for the series has changed dramatically, and the Bulls now have a good chance for the second time since 2007 to defeat the defending NBA champions in the playoffs.
The Associated Press reported coach Doc Rivers said on radio station WEEI-AM Thursday morning there’s a “strong possibility” Garnett will miss the entire postseason.
Without Garnett, that could be two weeks for Boston.
“He’s not going to be ready. After watching him practice, there’s no way,” Rivers said on WEEI-AM, according to the AP report. “The way I saw him move today, I don’t know if he’ll be ready.”
Garnett injured his right knee Feb. 19 and missed the next 13 games. He returned for four games, sat out again and was supposed to return for the last week of the season. But the Celtics then said they would sit Garnett and have him ready for the post season.
Though rumors had constantly been coming out of Boston that Garnett’s knee pain would not go away and he would need surgery. I’d mentioned it a few times as well, though he Celtics always denied it.
“If he can’t get through biking and working out without swelling and his leg locking, I don’t know how you can play in the playoffs,” Rivers said. “The guy’s a warrior, you see him try to mask his way through it. But after 20 minutes of running, I don’t see it. After today, there’s no way he can play. He was frustrated. He was mad at me, mad at everybody. Then he understood. He put up a fight. He’s really frustrated, but that’s Kevin. That’s why we got him, because he cares so much. We’re going to move on without him.”
Some around the NBA questioned the trade for Garnett at the time because they believed with the huge amount of minutes Garnett played and his ironman attitude toward the game, a physical breakdown was inevitable.
But the Celtics got a championship thanks to Garnett and changed the basketball culture again in Boston.
Even knowing what I do now, I still wish the Bulls had traded for Garnett and I believe the Celtics made the right move. If you have a chance for a championship or to vastly improve your franchise you do it. Then worry about it later.
But now the Celtics are in trouble.
Not out of the playoffs because they still have Ray Allen and Paul Pierce, the latter probably having the best all around season of his career.
But without Garnett, the Bulls have a chance to impose their will on the Celtics, as they did in the March 17 game in the United Center.
In that game with Garnett out, the Bulls spread the court and opened the game up, pushing the Celtics into a faster tempo game than they like to play. Rivers ended up matching down and going smaller, and the Bulls pulled out a 127-121 win.
Brad Miller was the dominant big man in that game with 21 points and 14 rebounds, and suddenly, without Garnett, Kendrick Perkins and Glen Davis have to fight their own battles. There’s no Garnett to have their back, and it has to become a perimeter shootout with Pierce and Allen scoring and Rajon Rondo running.
With Derrick Rose and Ben Gordon, the Bulls can begin to match that. One problem may be the Bulls own health issue with John Salmons, who remains slowed by a groin injury. Salmons scored 38 points in that game in a brilliant duel with Pierce. Pierce will be a tough cover for Salmons the way he’s been slowed of late with his groin injury, and the Bulls really don’t have anyone else to effectively deal with Pierce.
There are some similarities as well to the 2007 playoffs.
The Bulls that season swept the defending champion Miami Heat. Miami had won the Southeast Division, but that was the season Dwyane Wade suffered a dislocated shoulder and although he returned for the playoffs, he wasn’t the same player. The Bulls youth and athleticism was to much in the high water mark of the Scott Skiles era when the Bulls won 49 games.
As a result, the Bulls had one huge advantage in starting the series at home.
This time the Bulls will open in Boston. But without Garnett, the mighty Celtics, who did finish 62-20 and were 15-7 without Garnett, no longer are that same big team. They also aren’t the team that figures to be able to grind you down in the half court and especially on defense since they’ll miss Garnett’s all league defense and intimidating tactics.
In that March game without Garnett, the Bulls dominated the Celtics in the paint 58-44 and on fast breaks 17-6. They shot 53 percent and attempted 41 free throws by attacking a suddenly small Celtics interior, though Leon Powe got hurt early in that game and just recently returned from injury.
The Celtics figure now to try to play a drive and kick type of game with Rondo penetrating similar to what the Bulls do with Rose. And I like Rose over Rondo.
Bulls in six. Hardly out of the question now.