Garnett missed his seventh straight game as a result of the calf he strained during a game in Detroit on Dec. 29, and sooner or later his absence was bound to catch up to the Celtics. Coincidence or not, it happened on the night Garnett was rumored to return.
Houston did, however, have one very good power forward in the lineup (Luis Scola) and a pair of budding big men (Patrick Patterson and Jordan Hill ), who combined for 34 points and 21 rebounds. You think that’s happening on Kevin Garnett’s watch?
‘We just weren’t ready,’ said Doc Rivers . ‘I told our guys I thought overall it was probably our worst defensive effort in three, four years as far as overall effort.’
For all that Glen Davis  has done exceedingly well this season — and he has exceeded expectations — he’s no Kevin Garnett. That’s not breaking news or anything. But in Garnett’s absence, the Celtics have relied too much on Davis, and as a result he’s tried to do too much.
Starting in place of Garnett over the past seven games, Davis has shot just 41 percent (41-of-100) and grabbed more than five rebounds only once while averaging 35.7 minutes. In 30 games off the bench this season, he had been shooting 48 percent and averaging more than five rebounds in 28.5 minutes a game. Quite simply, he’s no longer doing the ‘garbage man’ things that made him a contender for the NBA’s Sixth Man of the Year.
‘He’s getting too many minutes, quite honestly,’ added Rivers. ‘Thirty-eight minutes is too many for Baby. We don’t have a lot of options right now. Luke [Harangody]’s playing okay, but we may have to go small. That’s too many minutes, and that’s on me. Baby should play more in the 30-range, because I think the fatigue is bothering him.’
Garnett’s physical absence ripples down the bench, as Jermaine O’Neal is the first post off the pine, and at this stage of his career he’s no Glen Davis. Harangody inherits what would’ve been O’Neal’s minutes, and he’s no Jermaine O’Neal — and so on and so forth.
Sure, Harangody can drop a 17-11 game here, and O’Neal could have a double-double there (he hasn’t, but he could, right? right?), but over the long run those guys aren’t going to get it done too often for the Celtics. Again, that’s not earth-shattering news, but this is:
The Heat (30-9) officially passed the Celtics for first place in the East.
‘You can see them thinking about the individual game and not the ramifications of the entire season — and playing Game 7 on the road,’ said Rivers. ‘Hell, not just in the Finals if you make it there, but in the East, which is going to be difficult. This year’s not like last year when you could coast. You don’t have home-court this year, you could go home.’
Taking that into account, it’s hard to say what the Celtics missed more: Garnett’s physical ability or his mentality.
That glaring fact duly noted, here’s the Three-Pointer:
WHERE’S THE EFFORT?
The largest ripple that evolves from Garnett’s absence is the collapse of the Celtics’ entire defensive unit. As so many NBA insiders have said over the years, defense is all about effort, and there was little if any of that on Monday night against the Rockets.
The Celtics have given up 100 points in three of their last four games without their All-Star forward. With him? That just hasn’t happened.
The Houston defensive assignments for Rajon Rondo , Paul Pierce  and Ray Allen  combined for 51 points. No matter how much Rivers stressed ‘this game had nothing to do with Garnett,’ it’s hard to believe that seven Rockets not named Ming or Martin would end up in double figures with Garnett on the floor.
How often do you hear about Garnett giving ‘no effort’? No need to answer. That concept doesn’t exist in his mind, and he demands the same from his teammates.
‘That goes without being said,’ said Allen, who said the shoulder he landed on during the game was sore. ‘We all miss him.’
WHERE’S KEVIN GARNETT?
While Kendrick Perkins  sat on the bench resting his ailing knee, Garnett sat at home resting his strained calf. Why is that?
The standard answer: Garnett is so intense that he can’t stand to watch from the bench as the game plays out in front of him. But Allen for one thinks the Celtics’ crop of bigs could benefit from Garnett’s tutelage on the sidelines — injured or not.
‘I think it could,” said Allen. “We talked about that in ‘09. Just having him on the bench is important for us. I didn’t think about it, but having him on the bench has and can help us. I will [ask him]. I didn’t think about it, but it’s not a bad idea. I think Glen needs help when he’s out on the floor. Shaq and Jermaine have obviously been trying to follow the doctrine that we’ve been subscribing to these last four years. Kevin can help them.’
Of course, that may be a moot point if Garnett returns to the court  against the Kings on Wednesday, as the Celtics intimated on Monday.
WHERE’S MARQUIS DANIELS ?
That’s the question reporters were asking following Monday night’s loss to the Rockets. Marquis Daniels had ducked out of the locker room as soon as possible to catch the end of the BCS national championship and watch his alma mater Auburn win the title.
That game didn’t seem to be on his mind against Houston, as Daniels appeared to be the only one who put forth a full effort, making seven of his eight field goals for 19 points to go along with seven rebounds and a pair of steals.
Daniels and Nate Robinson  were the two guys Rivers pointed to as options when the Celtics decide to go small without Garnett. Unfortunately, Robinson was just 1-of-7 on Monday night and he is now 16-of-43 in the past seven games.