This is it. Time to unload both barrels. There’s no reason left to save it. Tonight we find out exactly what the old, banged up superstars have left.
We know Kobe is coming. He’s going full auto tonight. Terminator. That’s Kobe Bean.
We know Paul Pierce will try to match him. He’ll bust out that old arsenal that has had Artest guessing for the last few games. But Pierce’s guns are not a match for Bryant’s. They never were. He’s a cowboy going head to head with a fully loaded Green Beret. Ray Allen is pure firepower, but he’s hit or miss. A sniper who may or may not have the range to help tonight. The pundits have been all over what Rondo is and can be. Rondo can control a game, but the Lakers have him gameplanned. Does he have enough cowboy in his game to pull through against the Phil Jackson’s strategy? He hasn’t yet.
There is one Celtic with enough game to outduel the Mamba. People forget who the best player between 2003 and 2005 was. Not Shaquille. Not Bryant. Not even Duncan. It was Kevin Garnett. He was otherworldly. His numbers were Magic Johnson-like in their completeness. His defensive ability and diversity of skills was unparalleled. He was a happy medium between Tim Duncan and LeBron James, a tweener 3/4 who was simultaneously the best power forward and small forward in the game. He nearly led a team of has-beens and never-weres to the NBA finals with Sam Cassell as the second best player on the roster, might have won a title had Sam not broker down in the Western Conference Finals.
What kind of ammo is the Kid packing tonight? Is he coming to hunt big game? Can he be the Big Ticket one more time? Does he remember 37 year old Kareem taking control against the Celtic Hall of Fame front court in 1985? Does he remember 35 year old Michael Jordan scoring 45 of Chicago’ s 87 points in game 6 of the Finals while Pippen hobbled around with a back injury? Does he remember Larry Bird in Indianapolis digging deep for one last playoff rally after taking a concussion on the court? Does he remember what it means to be the best?
He has it in him. We’ve seen it in flashes. A quarter of dominance. A half of total control. A game of full on intensity. When Garnett is at his best everyone around him plays better. He does so much so well that everyone else gets to specialize. Now is the last time to bring it all to the table. Now he has the chance to take his place in history, join that conversation with Bird and Duncan and Malone. Right now. It’s time to fire everything, to sell out absolutely and control one last game at both ends. He’s the only player on the court with the raw ability to match Bryant. He has it. He’s always had it. Empty both barrels tonight, KG. Leave everything you have and everything you’ve ever had and anything you were saving for next year on the Staples hardwood and live with the results. Nobody else can do it.