Five quick thoughts on Game 4 while trying to convince myself that Game 5 will be more than just a formality . . .
1. As spectacular as Kevin Garnett’s 28/18 flashback was in Game 3, that’s just how dreadful his crash back to earth was in Game 4. The 1-for-10 shooting is understandable to some degree; he’ll be 35 this month, he had one day of rest, and his legs betrayed him. What was disheartening and so out of character were the mental errors, plural. First came the botched play at the end of regulation when his screen to put one of the Celtics’ most fundamental, well-worn plays in motion was never properly executed. And he suffered from brain lock again in overtime when, after getting caught defending LeBron James after a switch, he didn’t take the opportunity, which was there, to switch back to covering Chris Bosh, thus leaving the Heat’s feather-duster of a forward in a position to clinch the game with a tip-in over Ray Allen. Garnett has been a joy to watch during his four seasons as the fulcrum of the Big 3, but he generally skated after getting outrebounded 18-3 by Pau Gasol in Game 7 last year, and unfortunately, he had another poorly-timed hiccup in a crucial game last night. Somewhere, Player X is chortling.
2. I recognize his positive attributes, but I have to admit, Big Baby’s game often annoys me even when he’s going well. His perimeter shot selection suggests he believes himself to be some amalgam of Ray Allen and KG, and I wonder if the suggestion that he was shooting too much (which he was) is what sent him into this woe-is-Glen tailspin. So you can imagine how I feel about him right now. Baby played 16 minutes last night. I hope Nenad Krstic gets those minutes in Game 5, and Baby moves along to become another team’s enigma after the season. I’ve seen enough of his act. Baby, he’s a lost cause.
3. If you’re one of those people who chalked up last night’s loss to the Kendrick Perkins trade, please stop. His main value was on defense; the Celtics’ defense has been exceptional. And on offense? He was rarely on the court in the closing minutes of games because of his limited skills and inability to shoot consistently from the free-throw line. That’s pretty common knowledge to anyone who turned in to the Celtics with more than a casual interest the past four years. They don’t need Perk. They need another young scorer who can hang with the Heat on the perimeter. If anything, the deal for Jeff Green has been justified by what the Heat have done in this series, even if Green hasn’t justified it himself. And beyond that, if you happened to leave the clicker on TNT for the Memphis-Oklahoma City game and noticed Kevin Durant, of all people, having to guard Zach Randolph at times, you’d realize Perk isn’t the solution to anything at the moment.
4. Related to the Perk/Green trade, I’m curious where you guys come down on Danny Ainge at the moment. I do and will remain adamant that he’s among the finest general managers in the NBA, that he doesn’t get enough credit for putting together the KG-Pierce-Allen-Rondo core in what looked like a hopeless situation, that he’s drafted well (Rondo, Al Jefferson, Perk, Gomes, Powe, Baby, Delonte, Tony Allen), and that he’s not afraid to make a daring move even if there’s the probability that it will make him look bad if it doesn’t work out. Basically, he’s good at everything but hitting a curveball as far as I’m concerned. But I’ve been hearing from a vocal group of readers who point out his recent moves that haven’t gone so well, from Stephon Marbury to Rasheed Wallace to J.R. Giddens. I chalk those up to trying to find the right mix of role players while picking late in the draft and having limited cap space. I mean, how can you blame him for Sasha Pavlovic or Shelden Williams or Mikki Moore or even Troy Murphy, who was also coveted by the Heat? They’re roster-filler. So I’m curious if that vocal group is in the minority or majority at the moment. If it’s the latter, excuse me while I commence banging my head against my desk until the pain goes away.
5. Of all the lingering what-ifs from Game 3, the one that will stick with me the longest is this: Why didn’t Rondo’s layup fall? Was it because his injury forced him to lay it up righthanded on the left side of the rim? Did he just put it up too strong? And why didn’t the hoops gods or the alleged leprechauns give him the bounce out of respect for playing though an injury that would sideline most of his peers? Ugh. Unless there’s a basketball miracle in store — and while the future looks grim, out of respect I’ll never formally give up on this core until the final buzzer sounds — this one is going to be replaying on the DVR in our minds for a long time.