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The Three-Pointer: The knee, or not the knee is the Kevin Garnett question

12.30.10 at 12:31 am ET

Anything that can go wrong, will go wrong.

It’€™s fitting that the adage — Murphy’s law — came from an Irishman, as it probably crossed the mind of every Celtics fan who watched as Kevin Garnett crumpled to the floor in agony late in the first quarter of his team’€™s 104-92 loss to the Pistons in Detroit on Wednesday night.

It certainly entered Doc Rivers‘€™ thoughts.

‘€œI thought it was his knee the way he did it — the knee or the Achilles,’€ Rivers told reporters in Detroit. ‘€œYou’€™ve heard me say it before: Injuries when nobody’€™s around, to me, are always the severe ones. There was no one around when he grabbed it, so I thought it was a bad one. Let’€™s just hope it’€™s not. I don’€™t think it is, but we’€™ll find out later.’€

It looked like the knee as Garnett limped up the floor to commit a foul on Tayshaun Prince and stop the clock. It definitely looked like the knee as trainer Ed Lacerte rubbed Garnett’€™s leg on the bench. And it had to be the knee when replays looked eerily similar to Garnett’€™s season-ending injury in 2009.

But Garnett hobbled to the training room on his own accord, the first sign that it wasn’€™t, in fact, the knee. Later, he walked gingerly (but better) to undergo X-rays that eventually revealed no fractures.

During the game, the Celtics were quick to calm the nerves of their fans, their coach and even their players, as the team stressed that Garnett suffered ‘€œa lower left leg injury’€ — not a knee or ankle issue.

After the game, the C’€™s claimed that tests revealed no structural damage to the knee, and Garnett most likely injured his calf muscle. That noise you’€™re hearing is the collective sigh of relief from those same Boston fans, coaches and players.

‘€œI don’€™t think it’€™s bad, so I’€™m not that concerned,’€ added Rivers. ‘€œHe’€™s going to miss games, probably. I don’€™t know how many. I don’€™t think it will be that long, but, listen, it happens.’€

Watching Garnett hop on one leg, it wasn’€™t a few games most Celtics observers were concerned about. It was another promising season that had appeared to go up in flames before what can now only be termed as ‘€œgood news’€ came from the Celtics’€™ organization.

Which raises another Irish law, Coughlin’s, from the 1988 classic film “Cocktail”: “Anything else is always something better.”


Question: How many injuries are too many injuries? Answer: This many.

Rivers has stated this fact over and over again: The Celtics have never lost a playoff series with the starting five of Garnett, Rajon Rondo, Kendrick Perkins, Paul Pierce and Ray Allen on the floor.

Well, 60 percent of that group finished Wednesday night’€™s game in street clothes. The result? A 12-point loss to a Pistons team that entered the game with four times as many losses as the Celtics.

The Celtics had survived injuries to Perkins, Shaquille O’€™Neal, Jermaine O’€™Neal, Delonte West and even Rondo — piecing together a 14-game winning streak leading up to Christmas — but there had to be a tipping point. And Garnett was that tipping point.

Rondo is expected to provide some relief, as he could return as early as Friday afternoon in a showdown with the Hornets and fellow elite point guard Chris Paul. The O’€™Neal ‘€œbrothers’€ are (somewhat) healthy again, and they combined for 12 points and seven rebounds in 34 minutes against the Pistons. Also, Perkins and West could see the floor by the end of January.

Still, it’€™s no coincidence that the Celtics allowed 104 points on 55 percent shooting without Garnett.

‘€œWell, we can win games, but usually without Kevin we have everybody else,’€ said Rivers. ‘€œHow many more can we take? If Kevin misses games, it’€™s Kevin, Rondo, Perk and Delonte — the list is just getting really long. I don’€™t think anybody’€™s going to feel bad for us. I’€™ve just got that feeling. So, we’€™re just going to have to go out and try to still win games.’€

The ultimate goal, of course, is to make sure all four of those guys, including Garnett, enter the playoffs as close to full strength as possible. And, if you believe what the Celtics are saying about Garnett’€™s injury, they’€™re still on target to ascertain that objective.

Their secondary goal, however, is to capture at least a No. 2 seed in the East, as a relatively easy first-round matchup against the Pacers, Bucks or Sixers would most likely await. But any significant injury to Garnett would seriously hinder their chances of reaching that target.


An afterthought once Garnett injured his ‘€œlower right leg,’€ Wednesday night was supposed to mark the much anticipated rematch between Garnett and Charlie Villanueva in their first game opposite each other since Garnett called Villanueva a cancer patient or cancerous to his team or whatever it was.

Despite claiming he wasn’€™t concerned about it, Villanueva clearly had an axe to grind. The Pistons forward committed two off-the-ball fouls on Garnett in the first two minutes, 48 seconds, including one 10 seconds after the opening tip. After the second foul, Villanueva put a shoulder into Garnett as he returned to the bench. The referees, as they did for much of the remainder of the night, kept their whistles quiet.

Garnett scored just two points, on the same dunk that resulted in the injury with 2:38 to play in the first quarter. Villanueva didn’€™t return to the game until the second quarter, but he hit 4-of-6 3-pointers to finish with 14 points and five rebounds. Many a smile came to his face throughout the game, which seemed odd considering Garnett’€™s absence.


For the first time all season, the Celtics recorded more turnovers (21) than assists (18). Just as it’€™s no coincidence the defense suffered without Garnett, it’€™s no accident this happened under Nate Robinson‘€™s watch.

Starting in place of Rondo for the sixth straight game, Robinson finished with just one assist and two turnovers. Assuming the point guard responsibilities for the Pistons in Rodney Stuckey‘€™s absence, Tracy McGrady totaled eight assists and two turnovers.

When the Celtics and Pistons met the first time, Rondo recorded 17 assists and zero turnovers to Stuckey’€™s three assists and three turnovers. As a result, the Celtics finished with 20 more assists (33-13) and an easy 109-86 victory in Detroit.

Prior to Wednesday night’€™s game, the closest the Celtics had come to totaling more turnovers than assists was a plus-two assist-to-turnover margin, which happened twice: 1) a 31-point blowout of Charlotte that didn’€™t require mistake-free basketball, and 2) the Christmas Day loss to the Magic, during which Robinson produced just four assists in 43 minutes on the floor.

Read More: Boston Celtics, Charlie Villanueva, Detroit Pistons, Kevin Garnett
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