Okay, I wouldn't go that far, but the Celtics haven't exactly folded under the pressure when Kevin Garnett hasn't been able to suit up. Don't get me wrong, I would much rather see #5 in the lineup than not, but over the last two seasons The Big Ticket has missed a total of 15 games, during which the C's have gone an impressive 13-2 including last night's 128-108 victory over the Phoenix Suns.
With Garnett out of the lineup, there were several nagging aspects of the Celtics' game that were highlighted:
Can Perkins, Davis, and Powe carry Boston down low for 3 weeks? When the trio of "centers" on the Celtics' roster picked up a combined 5 personal fouls in the first 6 minutes of the game last night working on Shaq, I know I wasn't the only one saying, "this is going to be a long 2-3 weeks with these three knuckleheads as the only options to play the five." The three-amigos went on to shoot 8-9 from the field for a combined 20 points and 15 boards and only picked up 6 fouls the rest of the way. If Big Baby can show some consistancy shooting jumpers, Powe maintains his intensity down low, and Perkins keeps developing offensively down low the C's should be able to fight the Cavs for the #1 playoff spot in the East until KG gets back.
Can Perkins, Davis, Powe, and Garnett carry Boston down low throughout the playoffs? When the trade between the Hornets and Thunder fell through there was much rejoicing in Beantown because Joe Smith was not only once again on the block, but outwardly saying he wanted to come and play for the Celtics. Even after the trade deadline passed, the 13-year vet, who at 6-10 and accustomed to coming off the bench, would be the perfect fit in the Boston lineup, said that he was looking for a buyout of his contract so he could join the defending champs. Yesterday the former #1 overall pick quelled those rumors saying he was staying in Oklahoma City for the remainder of the season. I wouldn't give up hope, however. Oklahoma City has no shot at the playoffs, and since they were unable to move Smith's expiring $4.7 million contract he has no value left, and the team could use Smith's playing time to develop younger talent. Although Smith said he's staying put, it wouldn't be the first time that an athlete said something that was changed later.
How good is Rajon Rondo? Simple answer, he's pretty good. However, don't expect the Celtics' point guard to start consistantly hitting threes as the shot clock expires, shooting 75% from the field, and dropping 30 points a night. Remember, earlier this year Rondo set his career high in points against these same Suns at 25 before besting that number by 1 the following night. It is no secret that the Suns' defensive is utterly miserable and expect Rondo to come back to Earth tonight when he matches up against Chauncey Billups in Denver. He will score more without KG in the lineup, but I'm thinking somewhere along the lines of 18 points per night, up from his season average of nearly 12.