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Cutting Shaq Down to Size

01.19.09 at 11:31 pm ET
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Before last night’s game with Phoenix, Doc Rivers was asked what Kevin Garnett could do when he’s matched up with Shaquille O’Neal. “What he has to to do,” Rivers said. “Is keep his body between Shaq and the basket. He’s got to use his quickness, and he’s got to use his length.”

Very technical. Very precise. Very accurate. But then Doc doesn’t have to feel the force of 325 (listed) pounds coming crashing down on him.

So, Mr. Garnett: What’s it like?

“It’s like holding up a house,” Garnett said. “Y’all go home, knock out the foundation in your house, and just hold up the wall. And when it’s about to fall on you, that’s what it’s like holding up Shaq. Have someone in your house come over, you take a break, get some Gatorade and come back and hold it up. Every now and then you let it fall and then you pick it back up. That’s what it’s like guarding Big Diesel.”

Shaq scored 16 points last night and you can make the argument that he was just about the only good thing the Suns had going for them (click here for a recap). Amare Stoudemire was held without a field goal and scored just three points. Jason Richardson was scoreless in a first half that saw the Celtics open up a 64-34 lead. But it was the job the Celtics did on O’Neal to start the game that set the tone for the carnage that followed.

Without Kendrick Perkins and his big body, the Celtics were forced to open the game with Garnett on O’Neal. This is not the way they like to play. The Celtics prefer to put Garnett on the smaller, more agile frontline player, especially if it’s someone who allows Garnett to roam the middle of the paint like a free safety. But desperate times and all that.

In the first quarter, Garnett used his superior footwork to keep Shaq away from the basket. He used his quickness to intercept a pass and force a turnover. And he used his length to reach back and get a block from the weakside. At times the foundation crumbled, and the wall came crashing down, but Garnett dusted himself off, got his Gatorade, and came back for more.

When Garnett was done, Big Baby Davis took his turn.

“With them two it’s like a boulder moving a boulder,” Garnett said. “You’re not going to stop Shaq. Shaq’s too big and too clever. He’s been in this game a long time and you don’t just score 25,000 points by bullying your way to the basket.”

Baby met Shaq way back when he was in high school and the Diesel influenced him during his time at LSU, teaching him what he could expect in the NBA, both on and off the floor. The two are obviously close as Shaq called Baby his son before the game.

“I’m a little bit of a house too,” Davis said. “I’m a little house. He’s a big house. He still can do whatever he wants on the court. Whatever he wants.”

But Shaq couldn’t do everything. “It was a good old fashioned (butt) whooping and there’s nothing more to say,” is how O’Neal put it. “Period. That’s it.”

**********

Don’t tell anyone, but that alley-oop that Garnett and Rajon Rondo have been throwing down on people? It’s good. Real good. So good, in fact that the Celtics aren’t talking about it.

“We aren’t speaking about the alley-oop pass tonight,” Garnett said. “That’s top secret.”

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