For a team that held an 18-point lead and thoroughly dominated the first half, they nearly let the Miami Heat steal Game 4.
Fortunately for the Celtics, Wade’s potential game-winner couldn’t find the bottom of the net, and Boston evened the series at two games apiece.
Unfortunately for the Big Four, game five won’t be so easy.
A few years ago, KG appeared all but finished after bringing a championship to Boston.
A hyper-extended right knee left him on the shelf for the 2009 playoffs, and the big man wore down in 2010 when the Celtics fell to the Los Angeles Lakers in the finals.
Though his scoring was down in the 2011 playoffs, Garnett dominated the boards, averaging 10.9 rebounds per game against the New York Knicks and the Heat.
Inexplicably, the near seven-footer had a career renaissance of sort in 2012.
Maybe it was the strike-shortened season, but the former MVP appeared closer to the double-double machine than the guy hanging on by a thread.
After shifting to center because of Boston’s lack of big men, Garnett averaged nearly 16 points and 8.2 rebounds per game while playing his typically dominant style of defense.
Although those numbers aren’t overwhelming, it appears Garnett saved his mojo for the playoffs.
Through 17 games, Garnett leads the Celtics in points (19.5), rebounds (10.8) and blocks (1.5) while playing 37.4 minutes per game.
For most of the series against the Philadelphia 76ers, it was Garnett who fueled the Celtics’ offense. He drained his signature jump shot and made some tough fade aways to finish off a relentlessly athletic 76ers squad.
His dominant play has continued against the Heat where he’s posted three double-doubles in four games, including a 24-point performance in Game 3.
For a guy who’s making over $21 million in the final year of his contract, those numbers are pretty good.
But with 50,498 career minutes played, including the playoffs, the wear of a long playoff series may finally hit in Game 5.
To Garnett’s credit, he’s done what his coaches have asked him to do: Dominate the low block.
Then again, he’s been facing the likes of Ronnie Turiaf, Udonis Haslem and even LeBron James.
With Bosh expected to return, according to Brian Windhorst of ESPN, Garnett’s job just got a whole lot tougher.
Sure, Bosh has drawn plenty of criticism from Heat fans and NBA analysts around the country. But at the end of the day, he’s still a top-five player at his position.
Even though the Heat are just two games away from making the finals for the second straight season, the loss of Bosh has been glaring.
For Garnett, facing Turiaf or Haslem is an easy matchup because of his length and offensive versatility.
At the same time, Turiaf and Haslem don’t pose a big offensive threat, leaving Garnett free to roam the paint to stop the driving duo of James and Wade.
If Bosh is back to his usual form, Garnett will have to stick to him and defend Bosh’s own impressive jump shot. By the same token, Garnett will have to work much harder to score on offense as Bosh can match up with Garnett athletically.
To this point in the series, the Celtics have won almost exclusively because of the dominance of Rajon Rondo and Garnett.
Though I’d still favor Garnett in his matchup with Bosh, the future Hall of Famer may not have the energy to sustain his dominant play because of the athleticism of Bosh.
Besides Garnett, the rest of the Celtics’ lineup, save for Rondo and Bass, is nicked up.
Ray Allen, who was reborn in Game 4, is playing with a painful ankle injury that should require surgery after the season.
The NBA’s all-time leading three-point shooter also has to contend with Wade, which is no enviable task.
Boston’s captain, Paul Pierce, has been plagued with foul trouble and hasn’t fully healed from a sprained knee he suffered against the Atlanta Hawks.
Although he’s averaging over 22 points per game in the last three games, Pierce has fouled out twice while trying to guard James, and you have to wonder whether the knee injury is affecting his ability to move around.
After an exhilarating two-game stretch in Boston, the Celtics are certainly back in the series.
But with the Heat’s incomparable wealth of athleticism and younger legs, age and injuries may finally catch up to the Celtics in Game 5.
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