The Big Ticket to the next round?
Much like last year, we find ourselves up 3 games to 2 over an opponent that came into the series favored. The obvious difference is that this year we have Kevin Garnett. Maybe not the KG from two years ago that dominated on defense and imposed his will on offense. But he's still a difference maker and a matchup nightmare.
Antawn Jamison really doesn't have much hope against him. On his best days Antawn was always an unwilling participant on defense. Garnett has slowed a little and doesn't have quite the hops that he used to, but his post up game has never been about overpowering his opponent like Shaq. KG is a fallaway jump shooter in the post. That means he doesn't go to the line that much but it is an impossible shot to block and when he's making it there's not much you can do but admire it as it goes in.
Because of this matchup advantage, the Celtics have gone to KG often and encouraged him to shoot more - which is against his nature but something he's willing to do when called upon. He's also provided that leadership that was missing last year.
"When he wasn’t there, we had that leadership from Paul (Pierce) and Ray (Allen) and (Rajon) Rondo, but it’s a whole different experience when you have 5 in there," Glen Davis said. "When 5’s there, he makes sure everything runs right. If something is lacking, he says something. "He can carry a team with his actions. Just having him this year is going to help us a lot."
Garnett’s presence has stabilized the Celtics in the postseason. Not only is he healthy, but he has served as team leader and voice of reason. After Perkins barked at officials following a foul call on Shaquille O’Neal Tuesday, Garnett pulled Perkins aside and told him to remain focused. And it is Garnett who has set the tone for Game 6, declaring it just as critical to the Celtics as it is to Cleveland. "This team has gone through a lot of stuff, and that’s good for us,’’ Rivers said. "Everybody was making a big deal about Kevin being on the bench [last season]. Nobody listens to a guy, a player that’s not dressed. "So obviously his impact is better now that he is in uniform.’’
Maybe he's not the manchild he once was, but Garnett can still be the difference between heading home with a "moral victory" series vs. a league shifting upset series victory. The Celtics have an opportunity to make history tonight. They have a chance to change the direction of the league for years to come. With KG on our side, I like our chances.