Kevin Garnett was joking, I think. He had already begun getting critiqued for the push-up form he unveiled during the second quarter of Boston’s 101-91 Game 3 victory, but he wanted to make an announcement:
“I want people to notice that it was on the knuckles,” he said. “That’s old school. My uncle taught me to do push-ups on my knuckles. I don’t know who does push-ups in here, but there’s very few that do them on their knuckles. That’s some army-navy type stuff.”
Like the rest of his teammates, Garnett knuckled up Friday night during Game 3. Unlike most of his teammates, he was the focal point of Doc Rivers’ pre-game urgings.
The Celtics coach had mostly declined to offer Rondo any advice after Game 3. “Like a pitcher throwing a no hitter, you stay away from that joker. The guy scored 44 points, what can I possibly tell him?” Rivers explained. But he did make one request of his superstar point guard:
“The only thing we told him offensively was we had to get Kevin involved.”
By “involved,” Rivers didn’t mean to feed Garnett for his normal succession of jump shots. No, on Friday, the Celtics almost abandoned the pick-and-pop, normally their bread and butter. Garnett, who averaged 8.5 field goal attempts per game this season from outside of 10 feet, took just two shots more than one foot outside of the paint. Looking at Garnett’s shot chart (see: above), he could have been Kendrick Perkins or Tyson Chandler or any number of other perimeter-challenged big men. But he was none of them. He was just the 14-time All-Star with one MVP trophy who looked at the Miami roster and didn’t see anyone who could stop him, who looked at Miami’s defensive schemes and didn’t see how they could slow him down.
“In the middle of Game 2 they went to switching,” explained Rivers. “In my opinion, we never did anything about it. We didn’t take advantage of it. We kept stressing it, but we never did. Watching film today we showed a lot of it, and (Garnett) had ample opportunity to do it.”
Added Rondo, “(Rivers) kept preaching just throw it up it to him. They went small. Nobody can jump as high as Kevin. LeBron is athletic or Haslem, but they can’t get to the ball. They switched a little bit. He stood up to the rim and got most of them.”
One game after an inefficient 6-18 shooting performance, Garnett made 10 of his 16 attempts en route to 24 points and 11 rebounds in just 34 minutes. It wasn’t that he was particularly hot, either. It’s just tough to miss layups and dunks.
In the second quarter, Garnett was knocked to the ground by a Udonis Haslem foul. He laid on his back for a few moments as if counting the banners in the TD Garden rafters, before rolling over and pounding out a number of push-ups (correction: knuckle push-ups).
“As an athlete you have to get yourself going,” Keyon Dooling said. “Especially when you get knocked down, you don’t want your opponent to see you vulnerable. So that was his opportunity to show them that they can keep hitting him. He loves it. He plays a lot of mental games with himself, and with others.”
But in this series, at least for as long as Chris Bosh wears street clothes, Garnett doesn’t have to play many mental games (although I’m sure he still will). He just needs to park his keister as close to the rim as possible and release shots that Miami’s stable of under-sized big men can’t touch.
Mario Chalmers isn’t one of those big men, but he voiced the Heat’s troubles deciding how they should defend Garnett.
“Right now its hard to say. KG is a big guy, 7 footer and then when he gets in the paint and extends his arms he goes to seven-six,” Chalmers said.
No, regardless of how high he reaches his arms, KG isn’t actually seven-six. But for much of this postseason, he’s played as if he is.