The Big Ticket is Validated

Validation

He wasn’t quite the Big Ticket I’d been waiting to see since the postseason began. But at least he wasn’t the Big Stub.
That’s what I labeled Kevin Garnett after his abysmal performance in Game 5 of the NBA Finals and his solid yet unspectacular play throughout the playoffs. Where was his 40-point gem for the video vault? Where was his 28-rebound monster game that symbolized his unprecedented desire to win his first championship?
Where was he when Paul Pierce hit the floor and was carried off in Game 1?
Oh, he was there, but never THERE.
On Tuesday, KG finally arrived. He scored 26 points, hitting 10 of 18 shots, most of them jack-tough J’s in Pau Gasol’s grill. He also had 14 rebounds, twice as many as any other Celt. Tonight, he was there.
His performance helped the Boston Celtics demolish Kobe Bryant and the Los Angeles Lakers, 131-92, to win their 17th NBA championship, their first in 22 years.
The key word being “helped.”
We learned a lot during these playoffs. We learned a lot about a lot of players. But maybe the most intriguing thing I learned is that Garnett is not the superstar who carries his team to the promised land, as perhaps so many have long made him out to be.
He’s not the Big Ticket. But as one NBA expert told me, he’s The Big Teammate. Maybe the best teammate ever.
His majestic arrival from Minnesota almost a year ago certainly changed the culture in Boston. But he was not the reason the Celtics won this title. And after watching him throughout the postseason, and particularly in these Finals, he ranks third among the Big Three.
There would be no celebrating in Boston if Paul Pierce, the career-long Celtic and 2008 NBA Finals MVP, been traded. And there would certainly have been no cheers had Ray Allen been imported from Seattle.
Allen was the series’ true MVP, punctuated by 26 points in Game 6, including seven devastating three-pointers to tie an NBA Finals mark.
Pierce, though, may have won the series in Game 1, returning to the floor just minutes after the injury and never again showing even an inkling that it had occurred. He had 17 points and 10 assists in the clincher.
Through it all, KG filled in the blanks. He was the inspiration. He was the glue. He was whatever the Celtics needed him to be.
It didn’t always stand out, and it was hardly ever what we expected. But it was enough.
“Tonight,” KG said in the midst of the celebration, “I am certified!”
And validated.

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