Kevin Garnett? Never heard of him.
If there were any concerns about the Celtics’ ability to win Game 2 of their first-round series against Miami without the services of the suspended Kevin Garnett, those concerns were silenced quickly in the second quarter on Tuesday night, as the C’s sprung to life and definitively silenced the Heat at the TD Garden.
A 21-0 run in the second quarter. An 18-0 streak in the third. Hands down, without question, the best 24 minutes of basketball the Celtics have played this season.
When Ray Allen springs to life the way he did, coming back from a scoreless first quarter to finish with 25 points on 7-of-9 shooting from 3-point land, you don’t need Kevin Garnett.
When Glen Davis emerges as a dominating low-post scorer, getting into the lane and drawing contact seemingly every time he touches the ball, you don’t need Kevin Garnett.
And when the Celtics come together defensively and thoroughly manhandle everyone not named Dwyane Wade, contesting every shot and forcing the Heat to work for absolutely everything, you definitely don’t need Kevin Garnett.
“We really didn’t budge when Kevin got [suspended],” Paul Pierce said after Tuesday night’s win, a 106-77 blowout that puts the Celtics up 2-0 heading to Miami. “We were like, ‘This is a game that we we’re supposed to win. With or without Kevin.'”
The Celtics had been in this position before. They were without Garnett for all of last year’s playoffs when the C’s forward went down with a knee injury late in the year and didn’t return for the postseason. It was Davis who stepped up then, becoming a big-time impact player when the team needed him, and it was Davis who stepped up again on Tuesday night.
“When I stepped out there today and I saw our lineup, I was like, ‘This is the same lineup that we had going into the playoffs last year,'” Pierce said. “We pushed Orlando to seven games. With Glen out there playing so well in a starting role, we all know what he is capable of when he’s confident. He is playing a type of basketball we know that he can play.”
Of course Glen Davis was confident. When is he not?
“I just knew that the Big Ticket was out and that the Ticket Stub had to fly today at the beginning,” said Davis, grinning from ear to ear. “He flew in early this morning, got in and said he was ready to play. That’s all I know.”
Davis exploded for the Celtics early. He finished with 23 points and eight rebounds. He shot 9-of-11 from the free-throw line. He was a constant threat down low, and the Heat didn’t have an answer.
Then you had Ray. The guy everyone expected to step up offensively with Garnett out. But through one quarter, he wasn’t just scoreless — he was shotless. The Celtics just weren’t getting him the ball, so he wasn’t able to get anything going.
“It wasn’t because I didn’t want to, obviously,” Allen said. “It was more of them. Since Kevin wasn’t in there, they didn’t want to double in the post. Wade was chasing me more. When I came off of pin-downs, he stayed with me. I got the ball and tried to make quick passes back and get the ball moving. I figured it was my turn to dish tonight.”
He was wrong.
He ended up with seven 3-pointers, fueling the Celtics’ second- and third-quarter runs that buried the Heat in a hurry. Between Allen and Davis, the C’s didn’t need a whole lot more.
“It was so great,” Pierce said. “Me on the court being a spectator, just watching Ray knock down shots, watching Glen roll to the basket, getting and-ones. I didn’t know what to think. Everything was just flowing so well.”
Going into this one, everyone in Boston feared that the Celtics were in trouble without Kevin Garnett.
Going home, everyone wondered: Shouldn’t they just bench KG in Game 3? They sure didn’t seem to need him.
The Celtics won this one convincingly, and with Garnett watching from home. They didn’t even have their suspended star on the sideline for moral support. But in spirit, he was there, and the Celtics knew what he was thinking all along.
“Well, I am the Ticket Stub,” Davis joked. “So I kind of know what he wanted to happen tonight. He was kind of frustrated with what happened. He told me before the game to make sure that I do what I’ve got to do and be physical.
“And,” he added with a wry smile, “that anything is possible.”
We’ve heard those words before.