Kevin Garnett’s big challenge
|05.20.10 at 2:25 pm ET|
WALTHAM — Rashard Lewis is a monster scorer, but Kevin Garnett is a monster defender, and through two games, Garnett has gotten the better of his longtime rival. Not only has Lewis not been able to score — just 11 points — he hasn’t even been able to get shots off — just 16 in two games.
Credit for that goes mainly to Garnett, along with Glen Davis, who have a hand in his face on almost every jump shot he’s attempted. In Game 1, both of Lewis’ made shots came on simple put-backs from offensive rebounds. In Game 2, his one made 3-pointer, the only one he’s made in the series, came on a wide open look off a kickout.
But on his other 13 shot attempts there has been a Celtic defender close by.
“Nothing,” Doc Rivers said when asked about any special coverages. “We just guard him. He’s actually had some shots that he’s not made. I think the key to us guarding Lewis, or any of their guys, is the better we are in pick and roll, the quicker we’re back in our rotations. If we can’t get back, Lewis is wide open.”
It’s true that Lewis has missed some shots that he would ordinarily make, but that’s only because he’s such an extraordinarily talented shooter. Rolling through his shot attempts with the help of Synergy Sports, Lewis has had only one clean look at a jumper, his made 3 in Game 2. In all the others, Garnett or Davis were out contesting his shots with a hand in his face.
“Trying to keep my hand up,” Garnett said. “Baby and myself have the responsibility. Tell you the truth, a lot of the focus is on Jameer [Nelson] and Dwight [Howard]. I’m sure he’ll be real aggressive in Game 3, so I’m anticipating that.”
Keeping Lewis in check is Garnett’s top priority, but the Celtics also need his offense and he had made shot just 9-for-30 in the series. The Celtics like the number of shot attempts, in fact they want more, but Rivers is not easing off his demands that Garnett be a two-way player against the Magic. Even though he knows that it won’t be easy.
“In this series, they’re denying him with the double teams on the post,” Rivers said. “We knew that coming into it. What we’re trying to do is get him to the elbows and get him to the spots on the corner to stretch the floor.”
Garnett missed eight of his first nine shots in Game 2, but they were able to get him looks on the perimeter that they will gladly take again. Garnett has to continue to be aggressive. His signature play came in the third quarter when he allowed Howard to close before he hit him with a pump fake. As Howard flew by him, the lane was wide open and Garnett roared down the middle of the paint for a dunk.
“That was great,” Rivers said. “Because he was taking his time. I thought he was going fast for a game and a half and finally he slowed down a little bit and it allowed him to play.”
Garnett won’t be able to operate with only token resistance on the post as he did against the Cavs in this series, but the Celtics are finding ways to make him an integral part of the offense. Now he has to make a few, and continue to keep Lewis in check.