Regular readers know Matty G was once a regular contributor. Circumstances have drawn him away from Red’s Army, but KG coaxed him out of semi-retirement with that finger-waving thing he did to Jose Calderon. Please enjoy the return, however temporary, of Matty G. Video of the KG/Calderon moment and daily links after the jump.
For anyone who wasn’t sure what Kevin Garnett brought to the table, they got a full understanding of it last season. Monster dunks, a beautiful 18 foot jumper, and tons of profanities, just to name a few. But his best attribute is his defense. Not only did he take home the Defensive Player of the Year award, but the Celtics as a team allowed just over 90 points a game. Defense wins championships, as the Celtics learned last season. But Garnett’s defense spans far more than blocked shots and steals, and it showed in last nights 94-87 win over the Toronto Raptors.
Bill Russell’s favorite part of defense was the mental aspect. He loved getting in opponent’s head so they not only feared the humiliation of a blocked shot, but were haunted by imaginary footsteps from his Chuck Taylor’s. Even when he was on the other side of the floor, his presence was always felt. This frustrated the opposition to the point where they didn’t want to shoot the ball anymore.
Garnett may not be as dominant a defender as Russell (then again, who is?) but he sure has the “whatever you do, don’t forget I’m out on the floor” part down pat. The Celtics found themselves down 12 at halftime after a sluggish effort in the first half. They slowly crept back into things in the third quarter, cutting the lead to just six after 36 minutes. In the final 1:09 of the third, Garnett helped spark the Celtics and psyched out the Raptors. After hitting one of those 18 footers to cut the Raptors lead to 61-55 , Garnett didn’t just waltz down the court to cover his man. No, after Toronto point guard Jose Calderon got in his face on the shot, KG returned the favor… the entire way up the court.
As Calderon tried to bring the ball up, Garnett gave new meaning to full court press. He clapped in the Spaniard’s face, did his best impression of “Spirit Fingers” (yes, that is a Bring It On reference) and barked out dialogue that in print would have to be written as #@%*!>?^&. Needless to say, I don’t think he was complimenting Calderon’s dribbling skills.
Instead Garnett got inside his head. Calderon begged and pleaded for a taunting call, like a little brother begs his parents to scold his older brother after administering a wet willey. He must be an only child, because this usually leads to something far worse, like a wedgie (or in some cases, the atomic wedgie). Instead, Garnett kept barking. He continued to hound him on the Raptors ensuing possession, and it all led to Calderon shouting a few choice words in Garnett’s direction when the quarter ended.
Words are only words. The bottom line was the Celtics were down only six, and the message was there: The Celtics are not giving this one away. Not on Garnett’s watch.
Paul Pierce took over in the final few minutes, and ended up scoring 22 of his 36 points in the fourth quarter. That’s what the captain is for, scoring in crunch time. It’s his job, and he does it like very few others do, much like Garnett on defense. When points need to be scored, Pierce is the guy to do it. When a team needs to be intimidated, and shooed away with their tails between their legs, Garnett is the guy to that.
Since his arrival last summer, Garnett has completely changed everything about the Celtics. Defense is the key. The intensity on the court is through the Garden rafters and breaks through the roof. If a teammate takes a play off, Garnett will be there to let them know. Even when injured for nine games last season, players knew they had to give 100%, because KG’s voice could be heard around the corner. He couldn’t sit on the bench while he was out because it caused him too much distress not being in there.
Sure he makes as much as the entire Celtics bench plus Kendrick Perkins, but Garnett puts it all out on the table every night for every play. Other than Tim Duncan, are there any other $20 million men* that play and focus as much on defense as Garnett? There may not be, and there may never be.
Then again “Anything Is Possibllllllllllllllllllllleeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeee.”
* In order of salary according to hoopshype.com
Stephon Marbury, NY: $21,937,500.00 (hasn’t play defense at all this season)
Allen Iverson, Det: $21, 937,500.00 (at least he plays more D than Marbury)
Jason Kidd, Dal: $21,372,000.00
Jermaine O’Neal, Tor: $21,352,500.00
Kobe Bryant, LAL: $21,262,500.00
Tracy McGrady, Hou: $21.126,874.00 (a lot of $ for 1st round exits)
Tim Duncan, SA: $20,598,703.00
Shaquille O’Neal, Pho: $20,000,000.00
Herald: Garnett’s greatness awes coach | Pierce turns it on | Pierce deals with bad hand | Perk crashes O’Neal’s party | Ref-reshed Paul goes off | Globe: Truth hurts | Captain became quarter master | Paths cross once more | McDyess seems headed for UTurn | WEEI: Sounds of the game | Souza: Celtics Pierce Toronto | T&G: Tony Allen finally has a leg to stand on | Captain is Superman | Toronto Sun: KG the perfectionist