There's a huge story on the front page asking what's wrong with Kevin Garnett. Why is he averaging only 7 points and 6 rebounds in the playoffs? Why does he look so tentative on offense, with only 4 points in the Miami series so far? When is he going to wake up?
These are valid questions. But to me there is a simple answer: he is playing less than 20 minutes per game. LESS than 20 minutes per game. In most halves he plays the first 5 minutes or so, then sits until the last 5 minutes or so. Not only is that too sporadic to get any kind of rhythm, but it's also clear that he's expected to be about the 4th offensive option while he's out there. These combine to kill numbers and confidence. Actually, to make it clearer, let's look at a quick comparison between playoff KG this year and last year:
KG '13: 12.7 ppg, 13.7 rpg, 0.8 spg, 1.0 bpg, 3.2 TO
KG '14: 7.0 ppg, 6.0 rpg, 0.9 spg, 0.6 spg, 1.0 TO
But now, let's look at it per 36 minutes:
KG '13: 12.9 pts, 13.9 reb, 0.8 stl, 1.0 blks, 3.2 TO
KG '14: 12.8 pts, 11.0 reb, 1.6 stl, 1.0 blk, 1.8 TO
The biggest difference between playoff KG this year and last year? Last year he was playing 35.7 mpg, this year he's playing 19.7. No one can be an impact player playing so few minutes. To put this in perspective, he is SIXTH on the team in minutes.
So here's the question: is KG playing 19 minutes because that's all he can physically stand, or is he playing 19 minutes because Jason Kidd doesn't think he can/should be playing more?
This is a vital question, because it represents the only chance that the Nets have to try to make a series of this.
This Nets team, minus Kevin Garnett, is of a similar caliber to last year's Nets team. If that's who this team is, then they are at the end of the line. That team has no chance to beat the Heat.
In fact, let's go back and look at the only teams to beat LeBron James-led squads in the playoffs in recent years:
2007: Tim Duncan's Spurs
2008: Kevin Garnett's Celtics
2009: Dwight Howard's Magic
2010: KG/Rondo/Pierce/Ray's Celtics
2011: Dirk Nowitzki's Mavericks
Those 5 teams have some commonalities. The obvious one is team quality, as all five squads made it to the NBA Finals and 3 of those teams won the championship. But the other common thread is that each of those teams had a player that could change the personality of the game, to make it into a type of game that LeBron doesn't excel in.
Joe Johnson has been great in this playoffs. Deron Williams has flirted with being a superstar for years. Paul Pierce is a future Hall of Famer. But the cold truth is, none of these players even have it in them to take over a game from LeBron. They can play at a high level and try to match (or at least approximate) LeBron, but they can't change the tenor of the game. There is exactly ONE player on these Nets who has the potential somewhere in his DNA.
And that player is currently averaging 19.7 minutes/game.
It's been played up that LeBron has faced off with KG and Pierce 25 games over 4 playoff series. Ray Allen has also played in all 25 of those games. But take a look at what has determined wins/losses in those 25 games:
13 LeBron wins:
LeBron's team is +29.7 points/48 min with him on vs off
Garnett's team is +1.2 points on vs off
Pierce's team is +3.3 points on vs off
Allen's team is +13.6 points on vs off
12 KG/Pierce wins:
LeBron's team is +11.2 on vs off
Garnett's team is +26.2 on vs off
Pierce's team is -6.6 on vs off
Allen's team is -17.5 on vs off
Do you see the pattern? When LeBron's team has won, his +/- has been dominant. When the Celtics won, it was Garnett with the dominant impact. Pierce's and Allen's +/- didn't trace with the wins at all. And the REASON for that is that the only time the Celtics were able to beat LeBron's teams were when Garnett was able to control the game such that LeBron couldn't make his own mark.
Conclusion: Is Garnett too old to make an impact? Is he too old to play more than 20 minutes per game? Maybe he is. But you'd better hope not. Because if he is, the Nets have no chance of making this a series again. And you know, there are signs that KG isn't done yet.
Last game he grabbed 12 boards, dished 3 assists and had 3 steals in less than 21 minutes.
In game 7 against the Raptors he grabbed 11 boards and scored 13 points in only 25 minutes.
In fact, in the only games in this playoffs where he's played at least 25 minutes he's averaging 12.5 points on 67% FG in 26 minutes.
Why not give him 30 - 35 minutes a game from here on out? If he's done, well, then the team hasn't lost anything because they weren't going to win anyway. But if he DOES have anything left then maybe, just maybe the Nets can make this a series. At this point, like Princess Leia once said of Obi Wan Kenobi...KG being KG for the majority of the game is the Net's only hope.