There were many reasons why the Celtics lost Game 1 Thursday night: Kobe Bryant doin' work and finishing with 30 points; the Lakers' dominance on the boards which led to them outreboudning Boston, 41-31; Pau Gasol's 23 points, 14 rebounds and noticeable lack of any softness.
Yet another reason Boston finds itself down after the opening game is a reason Celtics fan might now want to admit: Kevin Garnett.
KG finished with 16 points Thursday night, on 7-of-16 shooting and was limited to just four rebounds. But that hardly tells the story of his lackluster performance if you watched game (see this post at Celtics Hub for more on that). Jeff Clark at our CelticsBlog speculates that Garnett may be "hurt more than he's letting on," and then presents a theory that may even make more sense: KG doesn't know what to do when he's the one getting pushed around.
Here's a theory, and you can discredit it if you like. As much as I love having him on my team, Garnett is a bit of a bully. Sure, he's got tremendous skill and he outworks most players in the league, but when push comes to shove, he's usually the one shoving and yapping. It drives him and intimidates opponents. See Gasol in 2008.
Now, what happens when you punch a bully in the mouth? If after-school specials and Disney movies have taught us anything, it is that bullies tend to recoil and stand there in a daze, unable to believe what just happened. Well, Gasol threw the first punch last night. He took the ball to the hoop and when it didn't go in the first time he didn't give up on the play the way a Dwight Howard or Antawn Jamison might have in the previous couple rounds. He kept right after the ball and put it back in on the second effort. As painful as it is to say, the effort was McHale-like in quality.
So I guess my theory is that Garnett was just a little dazed and confused to see "Soft" Gasol beating him to the loose balls and out-working him on the boards. Of course that doesn't explain the lack of lift and inability to hit point blank bunny baskets, but I'm much less concerned about Garnett's offense than I am about his defense and rebounding.