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ESPN’s Chris Forsberg and multiple media outlets are reporting that Kevin Garnett will miss approximately two weeks with what’s being deemed an “inflamed left ankle”. Garnett had an MRI on his ankle on Monday morning, and results were negative.
Garnett missed the Celtics loss on Saturday to Memphis, and Doc Rivers and Danny Ainge seem to disagree about exactly when Garnett injured his ankle. Ainge thinks Garnett got hurt on Wednesday in New Orleans and played on it in Dallas on Friday, while Rivers believes Garnett turned his ankle in Dallas.
This smells way different to me than Garnett’s knee injury in 2009 that kept him from joining the Celtics in defense of their NBA title. Garnett may have some discomfort, and that may be cause for caution, but I believe there’s something else a play here: Playoff seeding.
If the Celtics finish seventh in the Eastern Conference they get to face the Pacers in the first round. The Celtics have beaten the Pacers both on the road and at home this season. If they upset the Pacers, they’ll likely face a banged up Knicks team that they have a good history of winning against as well. If Garnett misses some time the Celtics are more likely to stand pat in the standings.
This means two things: 1. avoid the Miami Heat until the last possible moment; 2. avoid the Bulls and the possible return of Derrick Rose. If the Bulls slug it out with the Heat in the second round and make things hard on the defending champs, then it can only benefit a Celtics team that already has a slim-to-none chance at one last finals appearance.
Rivers, Ainge, Garnett, Paul Pierce and the rest of the Celtics know that the only way they can reach the NBA Finals again with this group is with more than a bit of luck and the strategy of a seasoned Army General or chess champion (take your pick), and picking their playoff match-ups has to be in play here.
The injury also gives the Celtics a chance to take a legitimate look at both DJ White and Shavlik Randolph to determine which, if either, can be counted on to contribute in the playoffs or moving forward. Both forwards signed non-guaranteed deals last week to potentially stick with the Celtics beyond this season.
In other injury-related news, Courtney Lee’s ankle IS feeling better and he is listed as ‘questionable’ for tomorrow nights bout with the Knicks.