Gasol smack dab in middle
LOS ANGELES — First there was smackdown. Now there’s smacktalk.
Kevin Garnett has been schooling Pau Gasol for as long as Gasol’s been in the NBA. Garnett undressed the Lakers forward in the 2008 Finals and Gasol went home with the label that he was “too soft.’’
Look who’s talking now. Gasol humiliated Garnett in LA’s Game 1 victory Thursday night. He outrebounded Garnett, 14-4. He beat him to the ball and dunked over him, pounding his chest and yelling — something Garnett did to Gasol in 2008.
Yesterday, Gasol took it a little further at the interview podium.
“On Kevin’s part, he’s also lost some explosiveness,’’ said Gasol. “He’s more of a jump shooter now, you could say . . . time passes and we all suffer it one way or another.’’
Let the record show that Gasol was extremely measured and respectful when he spoke of Garnett. He said something that is obvious to everyone. But the words had to sting Garnett. KG is 34 years old with 45,000 minutes on his NBA odometer, and Thursday night he was spanked by his former student. There’s damning video of Garnett missing a couple of dunkable putbacks in the fourth quarter. KG was Willie Mays in the 1973 World Series.
We made numerous attempts to get Garnett into a war of words with Gasol, but the veteran big man wasn’t biting.
“I don’t worry about that,’’ said Garnett. “You can’t worry about what people don’t know about you . . . I’m just not getting caught up in what Pau’s talking about. It’s just going to be what it is. I’m not going to play these games. I’m going to stick to my guns and continue to make the proper adjustments and just move on. Not going to get into this [expletive] that’s going on. Know what I mean?
“I have no comments for his comments.’’
Garnett’s young teammate, Rajon Rondo, raised his eyebrows when he heard Gasol’s remarks.
“I just can’t wait,’’ Rondo started. “I didn’t know he said that, but I’ll be excited to see how it goes in Game 2.’’
Celtics coach Doc Rivers wasn’t buying into the notion that Garnett is near the end.
“I just thought he struggled,’’ said Rivers. “He had one of those nights. We all have them. We’re just not used to seeing him have them unless there’s something wrong. But he’s fine. I can guarantee you that.’’
What would Bill Russell say?
Garnett had one rebound in his first 27 minutes of Game 1. He finished with four in 35 minutes. Russell snatched 40 rebounds in Game 7 against the Lakers in 1962. He corralled 32 boards in Game 7 against the Lakers in 1966. In the final game of his career, when he was 35 years old, Russell played 48 minutes and grabbed 21 rebounds in a Game 7 victory over the Lakers in Los Angeles.
If you are a Celtics fan, KG’s no-show was the most disturbing part of Boston’s 102-89 loss. The Celtics were manhandled by the supposedly soft Lakers. LA outrebounded Boston, 42-31, and pounded the Green with 48 points in the paint. The Celtics are supposed to be the Sultans of Smackdown, but it was Olive Oyl Gasol who dominated the inside game and made Garnett look old and gone.
“I’m better than I was tonight,’’ Garnett said after the game. “I played like [expletive].’’
Much of the pre-series hype centered on the Garnett-Gasol matchup. If KG dominated the gangly Spaniard as he did in 2008, the Celtics could win the series, we reasoned. Game 1 went the other way. In a big way.
“We have to be a lot more aggressive than we were, obviously,’’ said Garnett. “We’ll make the proper adjustments and come back stronger in Game 2. I just have to be aggressive. What I do well is make plays for other guys and make sure guys are communicating defensively. This is not a one-on-one situation.’’
Two years ago, Garnett had 24 points and 13 rebounds in Game 1 against the Lakers. Last year, the Celtics did not get out of the second round of the playoffs because Garnett was out with his knee injury. This year, they were able to thrash Cleveland in large part because Garnett exposed Antawn Jamison.
Now this. A horrible Game 1. Against Gasol.
Kareem Abdul-Jabbar would tell Garnett that there’s plenty of time for recovery. When the Celtics destroyed the Lakers in the first game of the 1985 Finals at the old Garden, Kareem grabbed only three rebounds. Pat Riley called Kareem out after the game. How could a 7-footer get only three rebounds? Abdul-Jabbar responded and took over the series. He was named Finals MVP after the Lakers won in six.
Game 2 is tomorrow night. Rajon Rondo says he can’t wait.
Neither can we.
Dan Shaughnessy is a Globe columnist. He can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.