Garnett incident is reminder of playoff intensity

WALTHAM, Mass. — They call it playoff basketball.

Tempers flare, bodies go flying, hard fouls go uncalled.

And if you're the Miami Heat's Quentin Richardson, even injuries to a fallen opponent are suspect.

On Saturday, with only seconds to play in Game 1, Richardson took a Kevin Garnett elbow to the head in the midst of a scrum while Paul Pierce, the Celtics' star forward, lay on the floor, apparently injured.

After the elbow, Richardson and Garnett exchanged angry words, but no more blows were thrown in Boston's 85-76 victory.


On Sunday, Garnett was suspended for Game 2 on Tuesday. But before the ban was announced, he was asked if he had any regrets about the incident.

''Not at all," he said. "I would hope if I was hurt or if I was down in that position, someone would at least give me some space to sort of recover or to gather myself. That's the only thing I was asking for, nothing more, nothing less than that."

Celtics Coach Doc Rivers put the blame at Richardson's feet.

''The guy looked like he was hurt pretty bad," Rivers said of Pierce. "You don't need to be over there bothering him at that point. I don't know what that was about. You got a guy injured on the floor, I don't think you should be standing over him telling him to get up."

Richardson said that he did not say anything directly to Pierce but that he made a comment to his Heat teammate Jermaine O'Neal loud enough to be heard. He said he thought Pierce was faking.

''I said to Jermaine, 'He's OK,' because I knew nobody touched him," Richardson said. "Is he taking another break like he does so many times? Sometimes he falls like he's about to be out for the season, and then he gets right up, that's all I said."

Richardson's reservations were not without foundation. He may have recalled the incident in Game 1 of the 2008 NBA finals when Pierce fell hard to the court midway through the third quarter. He grabbed his knee and was carried off the court by his teammates, transported to the locker room in a wheelchair. Pierce came back in minutes and finished with 22 points as the Celtics won Game 1.

So Richardson was merely expressing cynicism. In fact, he called Garnett and Pierce actresses.


''I just get surprised by people's actions when I know them better than that," Richardson said. "They're not those characters they portray, they're not who they say they are, Garnett and Pierce, they're good basketball players, and that's about it."

The Celtics are building a reputation. On Sunday, Bulls center Joakim Noah, whose team lost Game 1 to the Cavaliers a day earlier, called Garnett a dirty player.

"It's one thing to be competitive and compete and all that," Noah said. "But don't be a dirty player, man."

The Heat's Dwyane Wade said the Celtics used intimidation.

''They try to push you to the limit, they try to bully you," he said. "I think if you let them get in your head, they'll succeed at it. That's what they do."

Rivers smiled.

''I don't know if we are or not," he said. "I'm a believer that as long as the other people are talking, that's good by me as long as we don't respond to it. We've got to keep playing."

The scuffling, the feistiness must be a joy to behold for Celtics fans who may be convinced that their team's championship window is rapidly closing.


For Celtics fans, Saturday's skirmish and subsequent victory were good news: the team's blood is still boiling.

''The window is narrowing; it's not closed, though," Rivers said. "And it's going to keep closing."

Even for a team like Cleveland, which is led by 25-year-old LeBron James, the time may be now or never.

''The Cavs are a young team in some ways, but trust me, they feel their window is closing," Rivers said. "The one thing I learned in this league is that you can never take for granted that you'll ever be back in this situation the following year. You never know what happens. You just have to try to seize the moment whenever you have a chance."

This is the NBA's finest hour.

For all the joy and excitement of March Madness, there is no comparison between the NCAA tournament and the NBA playoffs.

There is no luck in the playoffs. Sharp elbows are thrown, bodies are flying, and after a bitter series, the better team will emerge.

"It's an emotional game," Garnett said Sunday. "A very, very high-intensity game."


In Game 1, emotions bubbled over. Asked about the elbow to Richardson's head, Garnett said that all he was trying to do was to clear space.

Richardson, asked if he liked the tone set by Game 1 said, without smiling, "I don't like them, and they know it."

Now we have a series.

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