When Kevin Garnett went down in Detroit on Dec. 29 with a minor calf injury, the Celtics promised it wouldn't be too bad this time. They said KG would be back within two weeks, and it would appear that they're now ready to make good on that claim.
Two weeks from that date would be Wednesday, Jan. 12, when the Celtics take on the Sacramento Kings at home, but C's coach Doc Rivers might be even more optimistic than that. He says there's a chance KG takes the TD Garden floor on Monday, as the C's face the Houston Rockets.
KG's return would be exciting, and it wouldn't be coming a moment too soon. The C's appear on the surface to be doing OK without the Big Ticket — they're still treading water in the Eastern Conference race, neck and neck with Miami — but if you look closer, they've had some issues.
The Celtics are 4-2 without Garnett. Sounds good, but that's only a .666 winning percentage, compared to 24-6 (.800) with him. And if you call the loss in Detroit a game without KG, which it essentially was, then that only skews the numbers more.
Surprisingly, the defense without Garnett has been fine. The team's points-against average is only slightly up, from 91.3 per game to 91.7, without its defensive leader. But on offense? It's a nightmare. The Celtics are down from 99.5 points per game in their first 30 contests to 96.0 in their last six. That's a drop-off worth noting. The C's transformed overnight from the Bulls to, well, the Pistons.
The biggest reason for the offensive drop-off? Glen Davis has been struggling with his shot. He's taken a high volume of long jumpers while trying to fill KG's shoes, and it isn't going well. He's shot under 50 percent in four of the six games, and he was particularly terrible Saturday night against Carlos Boozer and the Bulls, when he was 4-for-17. Big Baby is 35-for-86 overall in the last six games, meaning he's attempted more shots than Ray Allen (84) or Paul Pierce (77). That shouldn't happen.
Rebounding. Yikes. The Celtics have been outboarded in four of their six contests without KG, including a couple by ugly margins. Kevin Love and the Timberwolves got them 45-30 on Monday night (with Love individually besting Davis 24-1), and the Bulls used a nice, balanced team effort to beat the C's 48-27 on the boards Saturday. Perhaps if the Celtics had the services of Garnett, their best per-game and per-minute rebounder by a mile this season, things would be a little different. The C's are losing the battle on the boards 245-213 without KG.
While Garnett's potential Monday return is questionable, there's no doubt that his return will instantly benefit the C's in all of those areas.