Doc Rivers is well aware that his Boston Celtics are not anyone’s first choice to win a championship this year, but he’s also well aware that no one desires to play the Celtics come the postseason. They seem to always time it perfectly, and this year is no different as it looks like the Celtics will overachieve once again and give a contender or two fits come playoff time.
It’s always the same old question every year as the Celtics near the postseason, and Rivers often admits that rest is most important this time of year, especially for all the veteran legs that certainly aren’t growing any younger. Rivers believes that seeding won’t matter come playoff time in an Eastern Conference where seemingly, anything could happen.
As the Celtics look at the six teams in front of them, they have to feel good that they have beaten each of those teams at least once. However, the biggest question mark with this particular Celtics team is really how good this team can be on the road. Right now their record looks pretty atrocious when not playing in Boston. Their road record currently stands at 10-18, which is by far the worst road record among their fellow playoff-bound teams. Not being able to win on the road for a lower seeded team no matter how weak the conference is undeniably a huge concern heading into their final 25 regular season meetings.
Limiting Paul Pierce’s sky-high minutes has to be a priority for the Boston Celtics if they want Pierce to have anything left in the tank for a run. He has now admitted to some possible nerve damage in his neck that he has been playing with all year. Pierce is in dire need for the guys around him to step up and take a good chunk of the scoring load off of his weary shoulders.
This is where the Celtic’s really need Jeff Green to come alive and take some scoring responsibility off of Pierce. If the month of May comes and Pierce is still playing 35 minutes per game, the Celtics are most likely in trouble. Too often this season the Celtics have had to squeeze every bit of life out of Pierce that they can down the stretch of close games, and more often than not that formula has failed. If Green can rise to the occasion then he’s a luxury for Rivers to have, if he cant, it isn’t going to be a long postseason for the Celtics.
Kevin Garnett continues to put age to the test by still averaging 30 minutes per game. However, unlike Pierce, Garnett has stayed consistent on the floor and now over 50 games in his rebounding numbers are even slightly climbing. The drop-off in his game is still hard to find and he hasn’t really shown any signs this year of getting eaten-up by younger players and continues to use veteran knowledge to outsmart whoever has the tough task of guarding him.
In other words, Garnett still has the ability to compete at that high of a level and quite consistently. Pierce is showing signs that he just doesn’t have it on a nightly basis anymore. Resting Pierce has to be a priority at the front of the Celtics collective brain if they want any chance at a Cinderella story, which would be quite fitting for this team.
Rest or no rest, the Celtics have to improve on the road, and their remaining schedule accommodates them quite nicely in that light. They play just one game in seven nights after a brutal road trip and 14 of their remaining 25 games are against sub-playoff opponents. The Celtics will need to truly cement their identity down the stretch while still being able to keep the minutes low not just for the veterans, but everyone.
Moving up a couple of seeds is entirely possible with a few wins strung together here and there, but the chances of them obtaining home-court advantage is unlikely at this point because of the shaky start to the season. Rest is needed, but so are wins, may the balancing act begin.
Eric St. Cyr is a NBA Contributor for Rantsports.com Follow Him on Twitter @ericJsaint