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Practice English Speaking&Listening with: Kevin Garnett’s worst playoff game set the tone for a whole decade of failure

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- Kevin Garnett, an NBA Champion, a 15 time All Star

and by all accounts, one of the best, meanest,

most formidable big men ever to play the game.

With the ring, the reputation and the confidence he has now,

it's hard to remember that early in his career,

it wasn't so obvious who this young,

long player, was going to be.

Was he the future of the NBA

or was he just another over-hyped kid

who got our hopes up for no reason.

Well, after a certain abysmal playoff game,

it looked like KG might be the latter.

With a chance to write a positive narrative

for the nascent Timberwolves,

Kevin Garnet failed to rise to the occasion,

buckled under pressure and played emotionally.

He didn't look like a future star.

He looked like he was bad at basketball.

This is "Kevin Garnett's Worst Playoff Game."

(dramatic music)

May 2nd, 1998, Seattle, Washington.

It was game five of the first round, an elimination game.

Kevin Garnett was young, just 21 in fact.

Is it really fair to criticize someone's performance

when they're so young?

Yes, and I'll tell you why.

KG had been in the league for three years

and was, at this point, a two-time all star.

This wasn't even his first time in the playoffs.

Okay, it's his second but still.

Everyone predicated a blindingly bright future for KG,

even saying he could be the best player in the NBA.

He and fellow baby teammate, Stephon Marbury,

were heralded as up and coming stars,

often called the next Karl Malone and John Stockton.

Their star power was so strong, ESPN picked them

to help promote their brand new magazine.

The young duo may have even inadvertently

given ESPN the idea for the body issue.

- ESPN Magazine is gonna be phat,

but please, no swimsuits. Tastefully done.

- But definitely all nude.

- Oh, and let me just mention in case it matters,

right before the season started,

young Garnett signed the biggest contract

in all of sports ever, 125 million for a six-year extension.

So, I'm not about to cut this millionaire any slack

just because he's 21.

He's young but he's a star.

The fact that this series went to five games

was a testament to what KG and the Wolves were capable of.

Despite the hype on individual players,

nobody expected this series to amount to anything.

Sure, we'd probably see some good plays

from Garnett and Marbury,

but this is a seven-seed two-seed matchup.

They were up against the veteran Super Sonics.

The T-wolves had only been to the playoffs once.

It was last year and they got swept.

This year's regular season record of 45-37

was the first winning season in franchise history

and one of their big three who helped

get them that winning record, Tom Gugliotta, was injured.

But once the series got under way expectations changed

because Garnett changed them.

Well, okay, not in game one.

In game one, they lost 108 83 and everything made sense.

But in game two, Flip Saunders switched

to a smaller three-guard lineup, moved Garnett to center,

and double-teamed Vin Baker. And it worked.

The Wolves won 98-93, KG looked solid all game

and had a huge block late in the fourth

despite being in foul trouble.

Ya love to see it.

It was the first playoff win in franchise history.

Minnesota was pumped.

So pumped, in fact, Garnett threw superstition to the wind

and proudly declared the T-wolves would win the series.

In game three, his prediction looked accurate.

The Wolves won 98-90.

KG was great, especially in the fourth.

He put up seven points in the final minutes of the game,

helping the Wolves close out.

Again, KG saw an upset on the horizon

and was not shy about it.

Game four was a disappointment for the Wolves

and a relief for the Sonics.

Minnesota lost by just four and despite the loss,

Garnett put up a good showing.

Going in to game five,

Kevin Garnett was living up to his reputation.

They said he was the star of the future

but when does the future start?

With one of the biggest upsets

in NBA history within his grasp,

could the future start this very night?

No.

In his first offensive move of the game, KG got stripped.

He recovered only to miss the shot.

This play may seem inconsequential, not that bad.

It's a few seconds out of a 48 minute game,

but here's the thing.

Lost balls and missed shots would become the status quo,

the inescapable script

for Kevin Garnett's worst playoff game.

For example, a few plays later,

Minnesota ran their trusty pick and roll.

KG got a fairly open look and it bounced out.

But come on, that coulda happened to anybody,

even Karl Malone or, in this case, the future Karl Malone.

Later in the first, he got the ball down low

but lost it when Gary Payton double-teamed him.

Yeah, that was good D, but this is the guy

who just a few nights ago told reporters

he was gonna win the series.

Shouldn't he be better at this?

The second quarter had some upswings.

He hit three shots including an authoritative dunk,

though he did have another turnover

to that swarming Sonics double-team.

At this point, you might be thinking,

this game isn't so bad.

KG's had some misses, some makes,

some turnovers but they were forced.

So what's my problem?

Why am I being so mean to Kevin Garnett?

He's never done anything to anyone.

Well, why don't we just wait and see

how this game turns out, shall we?

Shortly after forgetting to put his hands up

while guarding Vin Baker,

the Sonics' regular season leading scorer,

KG got in the paint, got himself some room and (groans),

a forceful brick.

A few positions later, he traveled,

and they might've called more travels back in 1998,

but that's still an embarrassing way to turn the ball over.

Less than a minute later, he threw a lazy pass

'cause, you know, it was an elimination game,

which was, of course, intercepted,

because it was an elimination game.

Oh, I almost forgot, the guy who was enough of a star

to launch ESPN Magazine also missed a free throw,

though I should mention he made the other free throw

because if I don't, we might start feeling sorry for a man

who's trash talk can be, what's the word... unprofessional.

His successful free throw is also significant

because it was the last time he scored all game.

You heard right.

His last point was with 3:44 left in the first half.

Of course, Kevin Garnett has had poor shooting performances

in other playoff games.

In 2011, when Boston faced Miami,

he went 1 for 10 in game four,

a game where a win would've tied up the series,

but he was up against some tough competition.

He played well in other games that series

including 28 points in game three

and perhaps most importantly,

he had his ring and his reputation already.

His career was defined.

This game didn't make anyone think,

"Hmm, Kevin Garnett might not be that great."

We wouldn't dare.

A few years after that,

KG had another terrible shooting night.

The loss of this game, and eventually the series,

marked the beginning of the end for Boston's dominant era,

but nobody blamed Kevin's shooting for that.

Even Doc Rivers said it wasn't his fault,

and let's not forget,

he had that ring and reputation already.

But back in Seattle,

KG was flirting with a totally different reputation.

He finished the half with seven points,

four turnovers, and two whole rebounds.

But there was still time for him to turn it around,

especially because Minnesota was surviving KG's,

"I forgot, what's basketball again," style performance.

The T-wolves were actually up at halftime, 47-44.

It wasn't because Marbury stepped up.

He was struggling right along with Garnett.

Rather, it was Anthony Peeler who almost saved Minnesota.

He hit six of eight threes and finished the game

with 28 points.

If the T-wolves coulda pulled this one out,

Peeler would've been the hero

of one of the biggest upsets in NBA history.

Wonder if Peeler and KG discussed any of that in 2004

when they got in a little dustup?

KG kicked off the second half being stripped by Vin Baker

and having the ball bounce off of him and out of bounds.

(sighs) And it only gets worse.

Approximately two minutes later, while the commentators

were discussing Minnesota's turnovers,

Garnett held the ball out in front of him

for anyone who wanted it to take it

and Jerome Kersey was like,

"Yeah, I want the ball.

"It's an elimination game.

"Give it."

Coming a Minnesota time out, KG forgot how to dribble.

People say this guy's gonna be the best player in the NBA?

Ratings are gonna suffer.

He missed a few more then picked up a completely unnecessary

offensive foul while vying for position

with future Parks and Rec star, Detlef Schrempf.

KG was clearly losing his cool.

On the next play, he just shoved Nate McMillan

because he got too close to him,

but then, a few possessions later, KG hit a shot!

Maybe things were turning around.

Nope.

The $125 million man traveled again.

No basket.

Flip takes him outta the game until the fourth quarter.

Garnett was so sad and too big to be properly comforted.

But hey, at least none of his teammates

were gonna yell at him until he cried.

Seeing all these KG turnovers might remind you of the 2012

Eastern Conference Semis when the Celtics played the Sixers

and Garnett had seven turnovers,

but I'm reluctant to be too hard on him

because Boston won the series in the end.

KG had other good games that series

and the one bad game in an otherwise good series

made for a perfect storyline in "Uncut Gems."

Oh yeah, once again, he had his ring and rep already.

This game didn't define who KG was as a player.

That definition was already written in permanent ink,

but in 1998, he was still defining himself

and he could still have a good fourth quarter.

The Sonics were up by seven, a surmountable lead,

and Garnett had some big fourth quarters this series.

There's no reason he couldn't do it again.

He came out firing but still couldn't hit.

I mean, he hit the rim here, that's kinda something.

He was clearly frustrated as we can see on the defensive end

when instead of helping his team fight for this rebound,

he gave up and seemed to ask something like,

"Why has God forsaken me?"

Then, the man who just a few nights ago

chanted one more game to the crowd, missed another shot.

It rattled around the rim,

getting his hopes up only to smash them.

To give Garnett credit, he didn't get ball shy

in the face of all these misses.

He was wide open, he didn't back down and pass.

Oh my God, just pass it.

With under five minutes to go, KG failed to catch a ball

that hit him in the hands.

As the last moments of his season tick down,

KG sidled up to Detlef during a free throw and said,

"I didn't have it tonight."

Hey, quick q.

If a young opponent said that to KG during a free throw,

do you think he'd lend a sympathetic ear?

Now KG has certainly had other playoff games

where he didn't have it,

like his 2014 post-season with the Nets

but he was playing limited minutes,

he turned 38 during that post-season

and these weren't defining games for Garnett

by any stretch of the imagination.

He's got that ring and he's in the twilight of his career.

Lay off.

Game five in 1998 mattered.

It could've sent waves through the NBA,

not just that there was a young foe in the west

capable of upsetting veteran teams,

but the humiliation to the Sonics

would've most likely gotten George Karl fired.

Instead, Minnesota lost 97-84 and was eliminated.

Despite this terrible game,

nobody was too hard on Garnett about it.

Gary Payton and the critics said, essentially,

wait 'til Garnett and his team reach their potential.

But what this loss meant, and what the commentary confirmed,

Was that Minnesota is still the team of the future

instead of the team of right now

and Minnesota stayed the team of the future

instead of the team of now for five more years.

They were eliminated from the first round of the playoffs

every year after this until 2004.

And it seemed like this was what KG's legacy would be,

a good player who wasn't good enough to lead his team

to the championships or even outta the first round.

But of course we know that's not what happened.

It took a very long time,

but Garnett's predicted bright future did come to fruition.

He won MVP in 2004 but he was really given a new life

when he was traded to Boston in '07.

He was defensive player of the year in '08

but I'm burying the lead a bit here.

In 2008, 10 years after his horrible loss to Seattle,

Kevin Garnett earned his ring.

He set his legacy in stone.

Kevin Garnett is an NBA Champion,

one of the best players to ever grace the hardwood,

expected to be nominated

to the Hall of Fame later this year.

We don't call him the next Karl Malone.

It's not necessary.

He's Kevin Garnett.

That says it all.

But there was once a playoff game so bad

we saw an alternate reality in which Kevin Garnett

didn't look like a star,

wasn't able to handle the pressure of high expectations

and traveled more than once.

It kicked off a pattern that continued for years,

forcing us to live in this alternate reality

where KG was confined to the first round of the playoffs.

And despite his notorious ability to trash talk,

I thought it was a good idea to remind everyone of that.

(ominous music)

Thanks for watching.

For more KG content, check out this Beef History

with Joakim Noah or for another playoff disaster,

may I suggest relishing in this Tom Brady failure.

Subscribe to SB Nation, ring that bell for notifications

and enjoy the rest of your day.

(dramatic music)

The Description of Kevin Garnett’s worst playoff game set the tone for a whole decade of failure