The Nets traded for Kevin Garnett and Paul Pierce last summer. You may have heard about it. I think it was on the internet.
Seriously, the team brought Pierce and Garnett in for situations just like this. You don’t expect any jitters from either guy, both of whom started the season in a wholly different role than the one they’re in now. As Pierce would say, that’s why he’s here: to close out the team’s most important games and offer a stability that Reggie Evans and Gerald Wallace, bless their souls, could not provide.
Pierce has made the biggest adjustment. His primary defensive assignments are the bruising Amir Johnson and the 6’9″ Patrick Patterson, as neither team has backed off their lineup style to adjust to the opponent. He’s delivered, getting to the basket in absurdly casual fashion for a 36-year-old who didn’t have elite NBA athleticism to begin with, and Amir Johnson has been a no-show in each of his team’s losses.
Garnett stands tall, long, and rarely. He’s played in just 115 of a possible 288 minutes in this series, including fewer than a quarter’s worth in their Game 5 loss. He’s played more than half of a playoff game just once in this series, playing 26 minutes in their last win. “He had a whopping six more minutes than I usually give him,” Jason Kidd joked. “We stretched him out.”
Nonetheless, Garnett’s impact is crucial for Brooklyn’s success. He’s their team’s best pick-and-roll defender against a team that has a top-flight pick-and-roll guard in Lowry, their defense has fallen off a cliff when he sits both in the regular season and playoffs, and he’s hitting enough shots to make him an offensive threat. (Though every time he misses a layup, a little part of the NBA dies.) But how he handles Jonas Valanciunas could make or break his playing time: Valanciunas has torn him apart inside, hitting 15 of 18 attempts alone in the restricted area in the 88 minutes the two have matched up.
Garnett’s on the team’s biggest stage of the season, and Kidd’s got his biggest decision to make: how far can he be stretched? We all know how far Garnett’s willing to go. But how far is he able to?