As has been posted here before, Kevin Garnett been waging war on the NBA's best big men lately. His recent victims have included Al Jefferson, Kevin Love and Chris Bosh. However Wednesday night's 7:30 matchup against the San Antonio Spurs represents a new challenge for KG – fellow future Hall of Famer Tim Duncan.
Since the All-Star break Garnett has been making mincemeat of opposing big men. His opponents have included Amar'e Stoudemire, Pau Gasol, Blake Griffin, David Lee, LaMarcus Aldridge, Josh Smith, Al Jefferson, Kevin Love, and Chris Bosh – some of the best forwards the league has to offer. Garnett has held this group to a field goal percentage of 40%. Of those players only Griffin and Aldridge shot better than 50%. Griffin did most of his damage on transition dunks and offensive rebounds. When the Clippers were forced into the half court, Garnett stole his lunch money. Aldridge had a good night going 8-11 from the floor. Unfortunately his team lost by 18 and at one point trailed by 40. Lee was efficient, managing 22 points on 9-17 shooting, but couldn't stop Garnett going for 24 and hitting the game winner in Boston's 105-103 victory over Golden State. The only player to have a good game in a winning effort was Gasol, who finished 5-11 with 13 rebounds helping the Lakers rally to beat Boston in overtime. Other than that, Garnett has won every single individual matchup in the season's second half.
Garnett's dominance has been even more pronounced since the Celtics returned from their brutal 12 day eight game road trip. He limited Smith, Jefferson, Love, and Bosh to a combined 19-68 from the floor. That translates to a field goal percentage of slightly under 28%. In terms of defensive efficiency, that's an insane statistic. However it might not even be the most impressive number. Of all the players Garnett has faced in the second half, not a single one has made more than nine shots from the floor. Simply put – opposing forwards are not scoring on the Celtics. Garnett isn't letting them. However Wednesday's matchup with Duncan represents a different challenge all together for Boston's defensive anchor.
Duncan and Garnett are probably the two best power forwards ever. Some might make a case for Karl Malone, often called the original power forward, but it's hard to argue against what Duncan and Garnett have accomplished. Duncan is four time NBA Champion, with two MVP Awards, three Finals MVPs, and 13 All-Star game selections to his name. Despite spending his best years with the hopeless Minnesota Timberwolves, Garnett is also a Champion, with an MVP and Defensive Player of the Year award on his resume to go with his 14 All-Star game selections.
Garnett came into the league as the fifth overall pick in the 1995 NBA Draft. Duncan followed him as the first overall selection two years later, and the impact the two have had on the league cannot be understated. There is a reason the NBA is short on great centers these days – young big men want to play the four because they grew up watching Duncan and Garnett dominate. It's hard to argue that any modern era power forward was better than Garnett, but if there is one it's Duncan. It's hard to argue that anyone was better than Duncan, but if anyone is, it's Garnett. When one talks about the great big men of the last 15 years, the discussion begins with Garnett and Duncan. Wednesday night will feature two of the very best going at it.
As dominant as Garnett has been in the second half for the Celtics, Duncan has been doing the exact same thing for San Antonio. He too was supposed to be over the hill by now but, like Garnett, he has Father Time tied up in his basement and has lead San Antonio to the second best record in the Western Conference. The Celtics are 15-5 since the break, San Antonio is slightly better at 13-4. Boston is currently on a five game winning streak. San Antonio will carry and eight game steak into tomorrow's matchup.
These teams are almost exact copies of each other. They are both veteran laden teams looking for one last shot at the promised land. They both have elite point guards in Rajon Rondo and Tony Parker. They both have crafty swing men in Paul Pierce and Manu Ginobli. They each have one of the league's best coaches in Doc Rivers and Greg Popovich. There are number of excellent matchups that will play out Wednesday night, but Garnett and Duncan will take center stage. They are the two best power forwards ever, how could they not?