Posted by Sekou Smith
LOS ANGELES – No one can overstate the startling absence of the All-Star formerly known Kevin Garnett that most of us assumed would show up for these NBA Finals.
He’s been a shell of himself against the Lakers, a step slow reacting to almost everything and nowhere near the action on most plays. It’s startling departure from what Garnett is used to and has been discussed endlessly.
But when those quick fouls early in Game 2 sent him to the bench, that opened the door for his backups to dive in. And Rasheed Wallace and Glen “Don’t-Call-Me-Big Baby” Davis delivered.
They combined for 15 points, 14 rebounds and eight fouls of their own in battling the Lakers’ frontcourt pair of Pau Gasol and Andrew Bynum to a virtual standstill. In fact, you could argue that the Celtics were better in Game 2 with those guys on the floor than they were with Garnett out there.
Davis dialed up the energy, chasing loose balls and attacking relentlessly on offense and even blocking a Bynum dunk attempt (he was actually called for a foul) during one jaw-dropping sequence.
“I’m an energy guy,” Davis said. “That’s what I’m supposed to do. I go out there and bring energy. I tried my best … and we got the win.”
Wallace played great defense on Gasol, blocking his shot once and forcing him into a short-armed layup on a crucial possession late.
“Our bench did a great job,” Davis said. “We picked up the slack for each other and made things happen.
Give Doc Rivers credit for pushing all the right bench buttons, as usual, but you also have to credit Wallace and Davis for bringing it when it mattered most.
Garnett certainly needs to slip them a thank you note or something to show his gratitude. Because if the Celtics had lost Game 2, there’s no doubt who we’d all be pointing fingers at today.
Amazingly, Garnett was upbeat on his way out of Staples Center and headed back to Boston for Game 3 Tuesday night.
“I feel good,” he said. “I feel good going back to the jungle.”
He should feel good with Wallace and Davis watching his back.