It’s not often Celtics fans or (Bostonians in general) are appreciative of sports teams from the Tri-State area. Surprisingly, that is exactly what is happening this Easter Sunday, as the Nets (without Devin Harris) finished off the Magic’s dreams of home court advantage against the Green in the 2nd round, with a 103-93 victory over Orlando. This comes after the Knicks stormed into Orlando and stole a win Friday night. Those two Magic losses, along with the C’s win Friday Night have locked Boston into the 2nd seed in the East ahead of schedule.
That collective sigh of relief you hear is probably the sound of the Celtics coaching staff as they know will have a relatively relaxed week with nothing at stake as far as the results of these games go. This comes as nice change from what seemed like a likely possibility last week that the team would have to fight the Magic for the 2nd spot until the final night of the regular season.
Now however Doc will be able to do a couple things. First and foremost, he will be able to give his starters some rest. As the injuries have piled up, there has been a lot of discussion how the scoring burden and increased minutes have fallen on Paul Pierce and Ray Allen. Look for Doc to keep them below 30 minutes this week, and maybe even a night off on one night of the back to back.
The added burden has not stopped with those two guys however. Thanks to the Celtics having only three healthy bigs, Kendrick Perkins has averaged nearly 40 minutes in the past 5 games, 10 minutes above his season average.
With these next three games bearing no consequence on the Celtics seeding, Doc will be able to give Perk some extended time on the pine. In fact, since the Celtics only still have three healthy bigs (until KG’s scheduled return Wednesday) we could see some extremely small lineups in there if Doc decides he wants to give Big Baby some rest too. So if you like seeing the end of the bench play like I do, this is like Christmas come early.
One other added benefit of this early clinching is that it allows Doc to give his top bench unit some extended run. This will help to work back injured Celtics such as Tony Allen into some rhythm and familiarity with the 2nd team. TA’s defense will be needed come playoff time, so its vital he gets comfortable again in this final week. This situation luckily will enable Doc to give him plenty of minutes to let him do just that.
Last, but not least, is that we are guaranteed to see plenty of opportunities for Bill Walker dunks in the next 4 days. Let’s hope the fun starts this afternoon against Lebron.
Check back with Celtics Hub later today for thoughts on the C’s potential 1st round opponents (its looking likely to be the Bulls, but could still be any of the bottom 4 teams!) along with a Cavs preview and game analysis from Zach Lowe. Happy Easter and Passover everyone.