BOSTON – It is game five of the NBA Eastern Conference finals tonight. With the series between the Celtics and Pistons tied at 2-2, tonight’s game is a pivotal one as the two teams grapple for control of the series.
It is also a big one for Kevin Garnett.
KG came to the Celtics during the off-season—the golden jewel after the Celtics lost out in the draft lottery for either Greg Oden or Kevin Durant. He was the Big Ticket, and he was Boston’s ticket back to the top of the NBA.
During a 66-win season, Garnett was the emotional leader of the Celtics. He could be seen getting teammates hyped to play, making sure they never took a night off. He helped solidify a shaky defense into the best in the league. And he became adored by a region of fans.
Now, it is time for KG to take the next step.
It is a step that has been taken by Celtic legends before him—be it Bob Cousy, Bill Russell, Tommy Heinson, Kevin McHale, Robert Parrish and Larry Bird. He needs to put this Celtics team on his back and take over game five.
Yes, along with Ray Allen and Paul Pierce, Garnett is part of the so-called new Big Three. Yes, they have each been the unquestionable leaders of the team this season.
But it is time for Garnett to separate himself.
Pierce appears tired. He has played the best defense I have witnessed during his career, helping to stifle LeBron James during a brutal seven-game series in the semifinals, and now shutting down Tayshaun Prince. But because of the hard work he has been putting in on defense, his offense is suffering.
Allen is a whole other story. He has unexpectedly lost his outside shot—the one that was so valuable all season and one of the main reasons he was brought to Boston last summer. Right now, you would be hard pressed to even find it on eBay.
Allen has tried to make up for it with other aspects of his game, including his drives to the hoop, foul shooting, and rebounding. But without that outside shot, his biggest asset to this team is taken away.
Enter KG. The Big Ticket. No. 5. The one who almost single-handedly helped tip the balance in the East in Boston’s favor this season.
He has been everything he was advertised to be—and then some. He has played unselfishly. He looks to his teammates first before taking his own shot. He is one of the best-passing big men in the game today.
But this is the playoffs. This is where legends are made and careers are held in the balance. Play well in the playoffs, and you will be remembered forever (see Horry, Robert).
Garnett needs to take over tonight’s game.
He is arguably the best player on the floor. When he gets the ball on the block, the Pistons have a hard time guarding him.
He can take Rasheed Wallace to the hoop every time and either get easy hoops or force ‘Sheed to foul him. KG eats players like Jason Maxiell and Theo Ratliff for lunch.
I love the fact that KG is an unselfish player, but he needs to put that aside tonight for the betterment of the team. If the Celtics are to win tonight in front of the home folks at the Garden, which will surely be rocking, he needs to think of himself first.
A fast start by Garnett will cause the Pistons to change their defensive philosophy. It will open up the game for Pierce, Rajon Rondo—even Allen. And, it will make the Celtics run more efficiently on offense.
In short, Garnett's play will help the Celtics take control of the conference finals from the Pistons. And it could turn KG into the next Celtics' playoff legend.