Iverson Outshines KG Down the StretchThe Philadelphia 76ers came back from a 19 point deficit in the third quarter to defeat the Minnesota Timberwolves 86-84 today. Even when the Timberwolves enjoyed their biggest lead and it seemed that the Sixers could do nothing right, ABC analyst Steve Jones kept repeating that Minnesota is a jump shooting team that does not does not get to the free throw line and has a tendency to let teams come back. Sure enough, the 76ers rallied behind Allen Iverson's 26 second half points (he finished with 39 points, led the Sixers with five assists and tied for the team lead with nine rebounds) and eventually won on Andre Iguodala's shot at the buzzer. ABC's Bill Walton made a very interesting comment during a timeout with nine seconds to play and the score tied at 84: "This game really accentuates the differences between Allen Iverson and Kevin Garnett--Iverson, he knows it's his world. Kevin Garnett would just as soon it be somebody else's. Until that changes, Minnesota is not going to be able to win these tough games." Although Jones had already identified that Minnesota is basically soft (by calling them a jump shooting team), which is surely an indictment of the team's best player, Kevin Garnett, he replied to Walton, "Garnett knows it's his world, but he's a big man. (He) doesn't handle the ball like Allen Iverson."
It is true that this was just one game and that neither Iverson's 76ers nor Garnett's Timberwolves figure to make much noise in the 2006 playoffs, but watching "the Answer" and KG perform down the stretch of this contest certainly gives one an idea why Iverson has carried a team to the NBA Finals and KG generally struggles to get his teams out of the first round--and before you say something about "supporting casts," consider that the '01 Sixers that Iverson led to the Finals included Aaron McKie, Tyrone Hill, George Lynch and Eric Snow, with the second best player being late season addition Dikembe Mutombo; that same year KG lost in the first round with Terrell Brandon, Wally Sczerbiak, Anthony Peeler, LaPhonso Ellis and Chauncey Billups.
Walton's point echoes Scottie Pippen's criticism of Garnett in an interview that was published in the Chicago Tribune on December 9, as I discussed in my NBA Midterm Report Card, Pt. II:
Pippen said about Garnett, "He really set the tone for self-destruction. He's very productive but unproductive. He gets you all the stats you want, but at the end of the day his points don't have an impact on [winning] the game. He plays with a lot of energy and a lot of enthusiasm, but in the last five minutes of the game he ain't the same player as in the first five."
posted by David Friedman @ 11:32 PM