As if it’s not enough that both Rajon Rondo and Jared Sullinger are sidelined for the season, the Celtics will now be forced to go at least two weeks without Kevin Garnett.
Per general manager Danny Ainge, the organization expects Garnett to be out of the lineup for at least two weeks (via Jeff Zillgitt of USA Today):
Boston Celtics President of Basketball Operations Danny Ainge offered his best guestimate on Kevin Garnett’s timeline to return from an injured left ankle.
“I’ll guess two weeks just because we want to make sure he’s really ready (for the playoffs),” Ainge told reporters Monday.
Did I mention the Celtics appeared to be cursed?
After watching them nearly pull off the upset over the Miami Heat a short wile ago sans Garnett, some would speculate that Boston can weather this latest storm. And that might prove true. But what if they don’t?
Two weeks on the sidelines means that Garnett will miss the next seven games, two of which come against a division rival in the New York Knicks. Forget about a surprise Atlantic Division win, the Celtics will be lucky not to fall behind the Milwaukee Bucks in the Eastern Conference playoff race. That would make them the eighth seed, and ensure a first-round matchup with LeBron James and company.
Somewhat luckily for Boston, just three of the next seven come against teams above .500. As tough as the going has become, there is some solace to be found there. Just not much.
The Celtics rank 24th in offensive efficiency, so they depend on their fifth-ranked defense to get the job done. They allow just 102.3 points per 100 possessions, trailing only the Washington Wizards, San Antonio Spurs, Memphis Grizzlies and Indiana Pacers in that department. Strong defensive sets will allow them to keep their heads above water in Garnett’s stead.
Or so we hope.
Garnett is the motor that makes Boston’s defense run. With him on the floor, the Celtics are allowing just 99.7 points per 100 possessions, which equates to the second-best mark in the league. Without him that number climbs to 106.8, the equivalent of 21st in the league.
That’s a big a difference. Monstrous even.
If the Celtics’ defensive attack suffers at all, they’re effectively screwed down the stretch. Even when (if?) Garnett comes back, he won’t be fit to save the day like he has been all season. He’ll need time to re-acclimate himself.
More pressing than the team’s future this season is what’s to happen beyond this year.
Garnett is 36, and he’s not one to remain in the league if he can’t perform at a high level or take the court consistently. Should this injury become a re-occurring affliction, he could retire, leaving the Celtics more depleted than they already are.
So yeah, the Celtics are in trouble without Garnett.
Especially if “without” extends to next season as well.
Dan Favale is a firm believer in the three-pointer as well as the notion that defense doesn’t always win championships. His musings can be found at Bleacherreport.com in addition to TheHoopDoctors.com. Follow @danfavale on Twitter for his latest posts and all things NBA.