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New season, same issue: When Garnett sits, Boston struggles

Nov 5, 2012, 9:43 AM EST

Milwaukee Bucks v Boston Celtics Getty Images

It’s dangerous to read much into trends a week into an NBA season — the sample size is too small. Look at it this way: For some three or four game stretch this season, the Miami Heat will look terrible, but that doesn’t mean they are terrible and will not be the team to beat come June.

But in Boston, one early season trend going on grabs your attention because it is a continuation of last season — when Kevin Garnett sits, the team’s defense struggles. A lot. Even in their win over Washington the Celtics gave up a 16-point lead when Doc Rivers tried to get KG (and others) some rest.

Through three games, Garnett is a +6 — 1-2 Boston has outscored its opponents by 6 points when he is on the floor this season (as a team, Boston is -16). For comparison Rajon Rondo is -9 and Paul Pierce is -6. And you don’t want to get into the bench, which has ugly numbers. The Celtics were supposed to have more depth this season but it has yet to really show up. Again, small sample size theater, but we have seen this movie before.

Here is what Cedric Maxwell said on Comcast SportsNet New England after the Wizards game (video below), courtesy CSNNE.com.

“Well they start off early on, you think about playing defense, they did a lot of good things,” Maxwell said. “They really shut down Washington, didn’t allow them to score any points early in the game. After that, the problem with the Celtics so far [is] going to the bench. When KG comes out of the game the Celtics have had some difficulties and some problems….

“I think the thing about KG, KG is the engine,” Maxwell said. “You can have the keys — Rondo has the keys to everything — but KG is the engine and when the engine is going the car is going the right way. KG rebounds effectively and defensively he is the captain of what they do really well. When he’s been out of the game, they have struggled.”

Boston needs to find a way to solve this because they can’t wear KG out all season giving him big minutes then expecting him to be fresh for the playoffs. It’s early, too early to really worry about it. But it’s a trend to watch because it’s not a new one. Just one Boston thought it had solved.

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