WALTHAM, Mass. — With the Celtics set to take the floor for Game 2 against Miami on Tuesday night without Kevin Garnett, things will be a little different. The Celtics will be without their emotional leader, their most vocal player and, above all, the motor that makes Boston’s defensive machine run.
But if you ask Rasheed Wallace, it's no mystery how the team must step up and fill the Big Ticket's shoes.
"Play defense, man," Wallace said Monday at the Celtics' practice facility. "I mean, I ain't no [expletive] slouch. Defense. Try to stop them from scoring. Stand between them and the basket. I know how to play defense, man. I've been doing this for a long time."
All right, then.
Ask Sheed, and it really is that simple. He's got it all figured out.
There's a good chance that Sheed will start on Saturday night in Game 2 — if not him, then perhaps it will be Glen Davis to bring a bit more energy. Coach Doc Rivers insists that he hasn't made a final decision yet, explaining that he used three to five different guys with the starting unit in practice Monday.
But you have to expect the race will come down to Sheed versus Baby.
"They're both different players," Rivers said Monday. "Completely different players. Rasheed gives us more size, he gives us a better post player and he spreads the floor. Baby gives you energy, and Baby moves his feet better in the [Michael] Beasley matchup. They're just so completely different. That's what makes the decision so difficult."
Come Tuesday, Doc will be forced to mix and match. He'll need to use Rasheed for his size and his length, which will be a tremendous help in containing bigger guys like Heat center Jermaine O'Neal. He'll need Davis for his energy, which will be big against Beasley. While he'll need both guys to pack a little scoring punch to fill the void while Garnett is gone, it's the defense that will really matter.
"The one thing I told our guys is that last time Kevin was out, scoring went up for the other team," Rivers said. "Drastically. And we can't have that. They're too good defensively, Miami. And if you allow Miami to score points, with the way they play defense, then we're in trouble. We have to somehow be as good defensively for one game — just one game — without Kevin."
The C's can definitely do that — they've proven as much in the past. Garnett's first season in Boston, 2007-08, they went 9-2 in games the Big Ticket missed. The following season, when KG battled knee injuries for the latter part of the year, the C's were 18-7 without him. Not to mention that in the playoffs, they nearly eliminated the eventual Eastern Conference champions in the second round.
This year, you could argue that things have changed, as the C's finished the regular season 44-25 with Garnett and 6-7 without him. It’s a mark that’s not exactly encouraging, and it reinforces the notion that these Celtics are a team that really only thrived with everyone healthy.
Although on the bright side, they beat the Heat on the road the one time they played them without KG. That was the infamous "Rondo lob game," when Dwyane Wade hit a layup in the final second to put Miami ahead, but Paul Pierce made a perfect lob into the paint for Rajon Rondo at the buzzer, and the C's tied it. Boston won that game 112-106 in overtime.
And by the way, Rasheed started that one.
"We won that game," Rivers said. "Rasheed was terrific in that game. We've played them that one time without Kevin, and we did well, so that gives us a little bit of confidence. But it's a whole different game, obviously, now. It's played at a higher level than that game was played. So we have to be ready."
No matter who starts, who comes off the bench, or who sits out, the Celtics remain prepared for what's ahead. They've got things figured out.
They're no slouches, you could say.
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