Whether you like it or not the NBA did what we all thought they were going to do – suspend Kevin Garnett for Game 2. While you never want one of your top guys out, whether he’s at full strength or not, the Celtics are going to have to compensate at both ends of the floor in order to win a crucial game two tonight in Boston.
Yes, the Celtics have played well on the road this year, but if the Heat win Game 2 in Boston, the crowd on South Beach is going be more than juiced for Game 3, and we know what D-Wade can do with all of that momentum and energy in the building. Doc Rivers has not announced who will start in place of KG (though it is reported that The Gooch is getting most of the first team action in practice) and to be perfectly honest it doesn’t matter. Why? Because this is going to be a true team effort at both ends tonight in order for the Celtics to go up 2-0.
First, Boston must be on time in their rotations when Wade looks to drive the ball to the basket. That role is a large part of what KG does out there both physically and verbally, as his movement and communication on defense is what leads the Celtics. If the Celtics are late in their rotations, that means Wade gets easier looks at the rim. Dwyane wreaks havoc in the lane as it is; an easier path to the paint means serious trouble for Boston. No KG also means that the defenders coming to help are not finding a body to box out on the shot, which leads to second chance opportunities for Udonis Haslem, Michael Beasley and Jermaine O’Neal. That is sure to hurt the Celtics.
Second, the Celtics cannot let Beasley find a rhythm and wake up from his game one coma. The last thing the Celtics need is Beasley gaining confidence on the road and becoming a reliable second scoring option for the duration of this series. When the Celtics have the ball in the half court, they must post up whomever Beasley is guarding, whether it be ‘Sheed or Glen Davis. Along with frequent post ups, they need to make Beasley defend as many screen-and-roll situations as possible and force him to make decisions on his hedges and run outs. This may be Beasley’s second time in the post season, but he has yet to prove he is ready to answer the playoff bell, especially against a veteran team like the Celtics.
Third, the Celtics offense must start clicking, and to do so without KG will be a challenge. The Green got huge lifts from Tony Allen and Glen Davis in Game 1 at both ends, as they combined for 22 points and a +16 over the Heat while on the floor. You cannot rely on those two to do the same thing tonight.
The obvious choice as far as getting someone else going is Ray Allen. After getting smashed in the face and leaving Saturday’s game, Ray never got back into any sort of rhythm and finished with eight points on 2-9 shooting in 31 minutes. Besides needing Ray’s points, Boston also needs him to run Dwayne Wade around as much as possible in an attempt to tire him out a bit for crunch time.
While KG’s offensive numbers have been down, Garnett still commands defensive attention and helps create space for his teammates, which lead to open shot opportunities. 85 points in Game 2 is not going to get it done for the Celtics. Rajon Rondo, Allen and Paul Pierce must attack the Miami defense all night and get to the free throw line early and often.
Game 2 is crucial for both teams. Boston can get it without KG, but as we have come to expect over the past two seasons, winning games without KG is never an easy task for the Celtics.