Kevin Garnett's Injury Proves It's Now or Never for Jeff Green to Deliver
The ankle injury just kind of sprung up for Garnett, as he missed two games with a strained hip and the flu, then played in two games before the ankle injury cropped up on him.
At this point, it seems like the Celtics are unsure about Garnett's timetable. However, they seem to be convinced that the injury isn't serious enough to bleed into the playoffs and are confident they'll have time to work him back into the lineup beforehand.
Boston has now lost four straight games, two with Garnett and two without, and are rapidly fading in the race for the Eastern Conference's Atlantic Division.
There's reason enough for the Celtics to be concerned about the absence of Garnett, especially given their extreme lack of size and the way they've played without him over the course of the past four seasons:
Kevin Garnett out 2 weeks (ankle). Celtics 17-17 past 4 seasons w/out Garnett. (First 2 seasons in Boston, Celtics were 27-9 w/o Garnett)— ESPN Stats & Info (@ESPNStatsInfo) March 25, 2013
Of course, their last two losses without Garnett have come at the hands of two of the league's best teams, and in nail-biting fashion.
A two-point loss to the streaking Miami Heat at home and a four-point loss to the Memphis Grizzlies on the road isn't something for a team to hang their heads about, especially when one of their best players was out of the lineup.
The only problem is that these two games turned out very differently for Jeff Green, Garnett's replacement.
He was attacking the lane, hitting his jumpers and forcing the Heat to account for him on every possession.
A few days later, he was a completely different player against the Grizzlies. Dealing with the size of Marc Gasol and Zach Randolph in the post, as well as the tenacity of Tony Allen around the perimeter, definitely got to Green.
His aggression wasn't there, as he settled for some mid-range jumpers and took what the defense was willing to give up, rather than forcing something more out of them.
What we had was a tale of two Greens. It was the best of Green, it was the worst of Green, it was the Green of wisdom, and the Green of foolishness.
Boston is going to be in quite the pickle down the stretch. Falling into the eighth seed is entirely possible, even with the Milwaukee Bucks being an entirely mediocre basketball team, which would mean certain first-round death.
Obviously the best slot for them would be the fourth or fifth seed, even if it would mean a trip to Miami in the second round.
The Celtics have to continue on an upward trajectory, and the only way that seems possible is if Green goes into games attacking the basket and drawing fouls. Settling for jumpers hasn't gotten the job done.
While it's difficult to put a hard and fast meaning on the next two weeks, this could be the stretch in which Green proves that he can be more than a solid rotation player, or prove that he's in a limited role which shouldn't be changed.
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