They get another, unwanted chance on Tuesday night.
With Garnett suspended for one game for throwing an elbow at Quentin Richardson(notes) in the final minute of Boston’s win in the playoff opener, the Celtics will be without their emotional leader and one of their best passers and defenders.
But the Heat still expect a tough game.
“This is a good defensive team, no matter who’s in the ballgame,” Dwyane Wade(notes) said Monday. “KG didn’t play all 48 minutes the other night. So with KG being out it brings a different game, a different style, (but) it doesn’t make it easier.”
Boston won Saturday night 85-76 after overcoming a 61-47 deficit with active defense that forced Miami to speed up its offense and rush shots. With the outcome all but settled, the altercation broke out near the Heat bench with 40 seconds left after Boston’s Paul Pierce(notes) fell down, clutching his right shoulder after apparently suffering a stinger.
A concerned Garnett hovered over him as Heat players milled about. He said he was trying to clear some space for his teammate. But he elbowed Richardson in the face after the two exchanged words. On Sunday night, the NBA suspended Garnett without pay and fined Richardson $25,000.
Garnett said Monday he wasn’t surprised by the suspension and learned his lesson: always keep a cool head.
“Obviously, I want all of this to be over with,” he said. “The message here is that whoever it is, my teammates, (coach) Doc Rivers, anybody in this organization, I want them to know I got their backs.
“My elbow wasn’t deliberate. But the league does what it has to do to set a tone and I respect (that) and now it’s time to move on and get back to a wonderful series.”
Richardson said he was surprised he was fined but also was eager to leave the skirmish behind.
“There’s always a chance when there’s an altercation that more than one party could be penalized,” he said. “It happened. It’s over with. I want to put it behind me and just look forward to Game 2.”
Rivers thought Richardson also should have been suspended.
“If we really want to stop fights, you’ve got to suspend the agitators, too,” he said. “The retaliator is getting suspended in all these incidents.”
Might there be any lingering bad blood that could cause another confrontation in Game 2?
“I hope not,” Rivers said. “If there’s a carryover, then shame on whoever is involved.”
The Celtics were 3-0 against the Heat in the regular season. On Jan. 6, Boston won 112-106 in overtime in Miami with Garnett sidelined with a hyperextended right knee. The Celtics also beat Miami in overtime on March 18, 2009 without Garnett, 112-108, in the teams’ final meeting last season.
Garnett missed last year’s playoffs with a knee injury and the Celtics struggled. They beat Chicago in seven games, four of them going to overtime, then lost to Orlando in seven in the Eastern Conference semifinals.
In the opener against Miami, he had 15 points and seven rebounds.
Without Garnett, the Celtics will be missing “defensive energy,” Rivers said. “Kevin also facilitates a lot of offense. In the first game, a lot of our open shots came off Kevin being involved in the play. That’s my biggest concern. You’re losing 15 points and, more importantly, you’re losing all the picks, all the postups where they had to trap. That’s big. We’re going to have to try to find some points somewhere.”
He expects Michael Beasley(notes), who Garnett usually guards, to get the ball more. But he said he didn’t know if the taller Rasheed Wallace(notes) or the more energetic Glen Davis(notes) would start for Garnett.
Miami coach Erik Spoelstra scoffed at the notion that losing Garnett would significantly hamper the Celtics.
“Come on. This is the playoffs,” he said. “They have enough guys and they’ve played well enough without him.”
Spoelstra was more concerned with fixing Miami’s opening-game problems—22 turnovers, poor ball movement and a loss of composure when Boston started whittling the 14-point lead early in the third quarter.
“Having the mental stability and the composure to be able to close the game on both ends of the court is going to be a major factor,” he said. “After two days of reviewing film and practicing, we have a very good idea of things we can do better. We were very active and athletic the other night but, in terms of our mind and our focus, I don’t think it was very attentive to the game plan.”
He also wants his players to be more aggressive attacking the basket.
That might be easier without Garnett reacting quickly to Miami’s pick-and-rolls and picking up the dribbler before he can penetrate too deeply.
“They’ve still got some big guys down there with Rasheed and (Kendrick) Perkins and Davis,” Richardson said. “He (Garnett) is obviously a difference maker, but we need to play the way we need to play (Tuesday) with or without him on the floor. Even after (Tuesday) he’ll be back and we’re still going to need to be aggressive.”
On Monday, Garnett practiced with Boston’s second team. He won’t be allowed in TD Garden for Tuesday’s game and planned to watch it at the home of general manager Danny Ainge.
“That’s going to be an experience,” said Garnett, a noted on-court trash talker. “Danny talks through the whole game.”