In preparation of the exciting conclusion to what has been an intense and drama-filled Eastern Conference Finals series already filled to bursting with remarkable performances and jaw-dropping moments, we struggle to remember the combination to the vault, remember it, open it up, find the “2004” box, and have a bunch of other boxes and a bowling ball fall on us as we impatiently try to pull it from the middle of the stack rather than first lifting the stuff on top of it off and putting it to one side.
Once we come to, we tear the sleeves off the Levi’s Vintage shirt we got last year from Unionmade (we always thought it would have worked better as a flannel vest anyway), fashion them into a bandage for our bleeding skull, pull the “2004” box to the best-lit spot in the vault, take our keys to the packing tape sealing it shut, lift the flaps up, and start rooting.
In 2004, the Minnesota Timberwolves had a chance to close out their Western Conference Semifinal match-up with the Sacramento Kings in six games. They botched it, wiping out big time in a 104-87 loss at ARCO Arena. The Kings had played remarkably well, hitting 50 percent of their shots, while the Timberwolves had not, hitting just 41 percent.
The two teams returned to Minnesota for the elimination game. From our write-up in our recent review of Kevin Garnett’s Top 5 Playoff Games:
Now facing elimination with All-Star point guard Sam Cassell dealing with a preposterous array of injuries (hip, back, a ruptured ear drum) that would eventually render him unplayable, the Timberwolves would need Garnett to push the limits of what he had to offer to their breaking point if they hoped to advance. Garnett would do exactly that, scoring nearly 40 percent of his team’s points on a night when only four other Timberwolves managed to score at all. He gathered 21 rebounds on a night when no one else on either team managed 10. He blocked five shots, including one that he simply leapt up and snatched one-handed out of the air. He beat the shot clock with a three-pointer, man – a three-pointer. It was his 28th birthday.
Also, before the game, he gave us what stands to this day as the greatest basketball-as-war metaphor ever conceived.
Other than Game Seven of the 2010 NBA Finals, tonight’s Game Seven — tonight’s game, period — is likely the weightiest of the Garnett era. You know all the storylines by now: an improbable playoff run in the face of an almost comic rate of attrition, the series’ concluding dance with one of the great talents — and villains — the league has ever seen doubling as what could be the last hurrah for the Celtics as we know them.
It’s Game Seven. It’s for all the marbles. In 2004, KG stirred up a minor controversy by telling everyone that he’s loading up the pump plus several other firearms. Though he hasn’t said anything like that out loud since, you can rest assured that he’ll be coming to this thing strapped like John Matrix.