Kevin Garnett proves he is the modern-day Kareem Abdul-Jabbar
|05.08.11 at 1:00 am ET|
The doubters were out in force following Game 2 against the Heat when Kevin Garnett was held to six points and eight rebounds in over 37 minutes in a loss that put Boston in a 2-0 hole. This came after a fairly pedestrian 16 points and six rebounds in 37 minutes in a Game 1 loss.
Miami coach Erik Spoelstra knew it was just a matter of time before Garnett exploded. Saturday night was that time – and specifically the third quarter. KG hit seven-of-eight shots from the field in scoring 14 of his game-high 28 in a 97-81 Game 3 win over the Heat.
“Kareem Abdul-Jabbar. That’s what it reminds me of,” Spoelstra beamed afterward. “He’s too proud of a player, talk about an MVP, one of the best players in this league, as soon as he stepped on the court as a rookie 14 years ago.”
Garnett added 18 rebounds to go with his 28 points on 13-of-20 shooting in 38 minutes.
“I thought tonight I was just a lot more poised,” Garnett said. “Just as a unit, as a team we had a lot more energy. I felt like I’ve been nonexistent pretty much offensively in this series. Tonight was a little more focused on offense versus defense. I thought I did a good job of balancing out to be honest. I looked for my shot to be honest. They weren’t bringing a double team so I just took my opportunities and I was aggressive. That’s what I’ve got to be like for the rest of these series if not the whole playoffs.”
Still – to Spoelstra – he couldn’t help but think of Kareem when he saw KG Saturday night dismantle his team.
“For the revisionist out there, Kareem Abdul-Jabbar when everyone threw dirt on him in the finals against Boston, he came out the next night and had 37 [points] and 15 [rebounds],” Spoelstra said of Kareem’s 1985 Game 2 performance that helped the Lakers beat the Celtics in six. For the record, Kareem had 30 points, 17 rebounds, eight assists, one steal and three blocks in a 109-102 win at Boston Garden.
“And while all this fuel was going on the last three days, I was cringing because you know this is a proud group, and you knew they would have a response which is fine. If we’re going to go where we want to go to, we have to outplay them when they are at their best. They’re going to be at their best, and we feel that our best game is good enough, and we were not at our best game tonight certainly, you have to give them credit.”
“It was terrific,” added Celtics coach Doc Rivers. “Like I said before the game, he had 20 shots in Game Two, but it wasn’t the 20 shots that we wanted. Tonight he got the 20 shots that we wanted, minus the three at the end of the game. So he had 19 shots that we wanted. Even his jump shots were on the elbows; it wasn’t further out. His shots from the corner were in the right spots. And he got into the middle of the paint instead of turning away. That was nice to see.”
What was most fascinating was the fact that despite his unreal performance in the third quarter, Garnett refused to say he was in any sort of “zone.”
“I was aggressive,” Garnett said. “I won’t call it a zone. I’ve been in a zone and that wasn’t it. Man, I’ve been in a zone and that wasn’t it. I had a nice rhythm going. Guys looked for me. I had [Rajon Rondo] and Paul [Pierce] encouraging me. Like I said, I’ve got to continue to be aggressive. It gives us a force and another source of scoring. At the same time, I can’t lose my focus on trying to slow [Chris] Bosh down and making sure that that is even ground. I’ve got to make sure that my focus is defense first and then being a post presence or whatever I need to be for this series.”
LeBron James was throwing around the bouquet of roses, too.
“I think KG’s aggressiveness on the offensive end set the tone for those guys,” said King James. “In the first half and in the second half, I think KG, he did it. He’s a Hall of Famer for a reason and tonight he had a Hall of Fame performance. They rolled [with] him and he brought it home for them.”
Garnett repeated his mantra afterward about what it’s going to take Monday in Game 4 to get this series even heading back to Miami for Game 5.
“This is it,” Garnett said when asked how the Celtics will cope with all of the injuries. “This is all in. We don’t have any days where we can rest or we can just say, ‘Hey, we’re going to take these two days or we’re going to give up this game.’ This is it.”