Sometimes if you can’t stop an opponent’s best player then slowing him down will do. That was the case in Monday night’s opening game of the Eastern Conference Finals. The Miami Heat beat the Boston Celtics 93-79 outscoring them 47-33 after intermission due in large part to their ability to slow Kevin Garnett. The Celtics future Hall of Fame power forward had a nice night overall, 23 points 10 rebounds a steal, block and an assist, but most of the damage came before halftime. In the second half, the Heat used different defensive alignments to double Garnett on the perimeter, often with Mario Chalmers, whose assignment, Rajon Rondo was sloshing through a horrible 8-20 shooting night. Garnett before halftime scored 13 points on six of eight shooting. Afterward he shot only three of eight, and his teammates were unable to help out. Paul Pierce and Ray Allen combined for meager 18 points on a combined six of 25 from the field.
The game story was that the Heat ran away from the Celtics in the second half. 47 points isn’t running very fast, but without Garnett at the top of his game, the Celtics were reduced to a crawl.
Martin Johnson wrote a weekly NBA column for the New York Sun from 2003-’08, and for http://www.theroot.com from 2008-’10. His sportswriting has also appeared in the NY Times, Wall St. Journal and the Atlantic Monthly.