Thursday, May 29, 2008

More KG

Kevin Garnett is clearly the most controversial Celtics player in this postseason. Not because of anything he has said or done on or off the court, but more because there are two distinct schools of thought on the guy.

School of Thought A:

Um, the guy has averaged 21 and 10 on 52% shooting for a team one game away from the NBA Finals, give him a break, those numbers are pretty darn good.

and School of Thought B:

Numbers be damned, KG for the most part seems to disappear in the fourth quarter of close games and you can't really be perceived as a superstar without wanting to take over in crunch time and carry your team to victory. While there have been flashes of this from KG, you could by no reasonable standard say it has happened on a regular basis.

Where do I fall? I'm definitely in the "B" crowd, but I will say that his early game contributions cannot be totally discounted because those points count too. He was instrumental in the turning of the tide in Game 5, something I did not initially credit him for.

I could ramble more but aren't those two schools of thoughts the cruxes of the for/against KG arguments?

The chic argument against KG has been to compare him to A-Rod in his lack of big game exploits and his inability to carry his team to postseason victory. I guess this is fair seeing as this is his ninth postseason and only the second time he has made it out of the first round. But I don't buy that entirely. Comparing a baseball player to a basketball player is difficult in a lot of regards. I think the more natural comparison is to a football player.

Cue the Peyton Manning comparison? No.

Honestly I cannot think of a natural KG/QB comparison but I guess Donovan McNabb would be the closest fit especially given the lack of quality receivers he has historically had at his disposal save for the TO year.

I'm not going to go for a natural 1:1 fit though, instead I'm going to throw the hypothetical out and let you decide where you stand because I think it is the meat of the KG debate as well.

Consider this:

The scene is the NFC Championship Game between the Eagles and Packers with the Eagles being the home team. The Packers jump out to a 14-3 lead early in the second quarter and have all the momentum. To answer, McNabb leads the Eagles down the field on a long drive where he converts numerous third down passes and all of a sudden it's a 14-10 game.

When the Packers get the ball back, they go three and out, but pin the Eagles deep into their own territory with about three minutes to play. Again, McNabb answers though and leads his team on a 90 yard touchdown drive capped by a scramble into the end zone just before the half. Now it's 17-14 heading into halftime.

The Eagles get the ball to start the second half and again McNabb leads them to a touchdown, this time it comes on a 50 yard touchdown pass on a third and ten where he hit his receiver in perfect stride going down the sidelines. This pass was a thing of beauty. A perfect throw. Now it's 24-14 and the crowd is going nuts.

When the Packers get the ball back, they fumble it on the first play. The crowd smells blood, but the Eagles are unable to get a touchdown here on account of McNabb taking a needless sack and also one of his receivers dropping a no-doubt first down catch. Still, they hit the field goal. 27-14 with about 6 minutes left in the third quarter.

Emboldened by their defense's stoutness on the last drive, the Packers march down the field with relative ease but stall out in the Red Zone. They are forced to kick a field goal as time expires in the third quarter and head into the fourth down 27-17.

The ensuing Eagles possession goes like this:

Run for 2 yards, sack where the ball should have been thrown away, incompletion where the ball is well overthrown. Three and out and they are forced to punt with about 12:30 left in the game.

With all the momentum now, the Packers take the ball and score a touchdown with relative ease. The Philly crowd is silent and the score is 27-24 with 7:00 left.

On their next drive, Philly starts moving the ball. Westbrook makes a couple of nice runs and McNabb completes a few easy passes. After a 6 yard run by Westbrook and missed a pass by McNabb, Philly faces a 3rd and 4 from 50 yard line with about 4:30 remaining. They make this first down, there is a good chance they take the ball from there, score, and ice the game. McNabb goes back to pass and has two options. He has a receiver with a step on his man down the field and he has his tight end open just a few yards beyond the line of scrimmage and short of the first down marker. McNabb opts for the safer pass, going to his tight end. The entire Packers D jumps the play, stops him short of the first down, and to make matters worse they strip the ball.

There is now stunned silence in Philly. Did McNabb make the right play? It was the safe play, but was it the right one? He did have a man open down field, should he have gone for the knockout blow? How will those questions be answered if the Packers steal the game.

As the crowd tries to summon some emotion to cheer on the defense, the Packers manage to move the ball down within field goal range. They get to the 30 before the drive stalls and face 47 yard field goal to tie. Initially the kick looks good but it veers right. No good. There are still two minutes left though and the Packers have all of their timeouts.

Philly's first two plays are predictable runs to Westbrook, forcing the Packers to burn timeouts. Amazingly though they get 7 yards on them and are forced with a 3rd and 3 from their own 37 yard line with about 1:30 to go. If they run and don't convert the Packers will get the ball back, deep in their territory with about a minute left and no timeouts. They pass and don't convert, it's the same situation except the Packers have a timeout (assuming an incompletion).

A run is the safer play but also the play with a smaller chance at success. More things can go wrong on a pass, but picking up 4 yards through the air is easier than via the ground. Regardless, a conversion means that Philly wins and coming up short means that the Packers have life.

Philly calls a slant, McNabb hits it. They get the first down. Ball game.

So what do you think about McNabb? Do you rally around the fact that he lead the team to a big lead early or do you gravitate towards the fact that he could not put the opponent away down the stretch while making some poor plays and decisions causing his team to eek out a victory by a small margin that possibly could have been a decisive victory by a larger one? I'm not going to make arguments for either side, I just wanted to put a slightly different spin on the current KG debate.

So what do you think?

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