Celtics fans can officially start worrying. They can even make plans for panic.
They’ve been worrying for a month, but always with the caveat that when Kevin Garnett was fully back from his injury the sun would break through the clouds, the stifling defense would return pretty quickly and by the playoffs they would look like the fearsome Celtics from last year’s Finals.
Then came the word today that coach Doc Rivers is shutting down Garnett because of his sore knee, asking him to take at least four games off then come back for the final three games of the regular season and the playoffs. KG sat out 13 games, came back in limited minutes for four games, then sat out the last two. The Celtics hope that the extra time off will turn the limping Garnett back into the one that moved with force around the court.
But even if he comes back for the playoffs, he may not be 100%, and would 85% of KG be enough to get past the Cavaliers? Or even Orlando?
And it’s not just Garnett. Leon Powe is out, as is Tony Allen. Like Garnett, those two are expected back for the playoffs, but they also may not be 100%. All of that could mean Rivers listening to his gut and tinkering with lineups — which is never a good thing.
Rivers is calling the rest because he needs them and everyone at 100%. He said in a radio interview today he may start cutting back the minutes for Paul Pierce and Ray Allen to freshen them up for the playoffs. It also helps that the first round of the playoffs takes forever, with multiple days off, (thank you all-powerful television executives!) and that will mean even more time for injuries to heal and older legs to get their spring back.
Be clear: Anyone who counts the Celtics out would be foolish. Even last season this team was not fully right during the first two rounds of the playoffs, when Atlanta and Cleveland took them seven games. By the end, they looked and played like champions.
But Boston is wounded, and the Cleveland team that took them seven games last season is much better this time around. Orlando poses some serious problems. A wounded Boston may still be dangerous, but that may not be enough.
And that should have Celtics fans worrying.