The story of Game 1 of the Heat-Celtics first-round series should have been the way Boston stifled Dwyane Wade in the second half and found the defensive dominance that led them to the 2008 title. The Celtics were back Saturday night -- until Kevin Garnett's elbow got in the way, twice, with 39 seconds left.
Now, the question is a legitimate one: Will KG be suspended for Game 2?
Another question is, should he be?
Taking all the usual factors into consideration, I think the answers are no, and no. But after beating the Heat 85-76 to take a 1-0 lead in the best-of-7 series, these are questions the Celtics shouldn't have to be contemplating.
You've seen the replays by now, and if nothing else, it should be clear that this was just an example of Garnett's typical bluster and machismo going too far. Hindered by a leg injury and all that mileage, Garnett has become a caricature of himself -- a woofing, cussing, emotional tinder box that on Saturday night kindled a fire that couldn't have been more unnecessary.
Anyone who knows Quentin Richardson -- and Garnett should know him by now, Q-Rich has been in the NBA for nine years -- would know that he approached the sideline in front of the Miami bench strictly out of concern for fallen Celtic Paul Pierce. As Pierce lay writhing in pain after sustaining a stinger on his right shoulder, Richardson immediately walked over to check on him.
"I just thought Q was standing over him talking some nonsense," Garnett said afterward.
KG, taking issue with somebody talking nonsense? Please.
Garnett immediately shoved Richardson out of the way, a course of action with which Richardson, to no one's surprise, took issue. Talking and jostling ensued, and things escalated into a full-scale shoving match immediately after Garnett connected with a vicious elbow to Richardson's face.
Garnett was assessed two technical fouls -- one for the initial shove and the talking, and a second for the elbow -- and was ejected. The issue now is whether the league office will/should take further action against the Celtics' big mouthed big man.
A few factors to consider: No one other than Pierce was injured in the fracas. The benches didn't clear, although it was difficult to determine what was going on with the Miami bench since Pierce had fallen into it. No punches were thrown, as far as I could see on the various replays.
It would be perfectly reasonable for league disciplinary czar Stu Jackson to conclude that the only harm in this situation was punished by the game officials, who dealt with Garnett appropriately after viewing the replays. But there are a couple of things I'd be concerned about if I were Doc Rivers or Danny Ainge: The league often considers whether contact is "unnecessary" or "excessive," and whether there is a windup before contact was made. Garnett's second elbow could reasonably fit all three criteria.
It also satisfied another definition of conduct that often is punished further by the league office: It escalated a tense situation into something else -- a full-fledged shoving match that easily could have resulted in punches being thrown.
The fact that it didn't result in punches being thrown is good for the Celtics. But the fact that it could have, I think, means that the next 18 hours or so will be accompanied by the appropriate amount of nervousness in New England.
All things considered, I don't think Garnett will be or should be suspended for Game 2. But if he is, I wouldn't object. And Garnett would only have himself to blame.