Certainly not the first time “must-win” has been trotted out this season. We heard it about the Bulls game a month ago, the last Miami game, and the two games prior to this one. But tonight, of course, is the first time it’s actually true.
Roster management and minutes delegation has been a subject of intense focus for the Celtics this year, because they’re potentially older than the hills. But with the fate of the season coming down to one game, will Doc relax the playing time restrictions he’s held onto all year? Will Doc:
Play Jermaine O’Neal more than 30 minutes? Jermaine has been Boston’s plus-minus standard bearer in this series, because he’s the only person on the team who can frustrate James and Wade at the rim. Meanwhile, at center, the Celtics are missing Shaq and, according to Glen Davis, Glen Davis. To say that the position has depth at all would be to imply that there’s a second reliable player, unless you count Kevin Garnett, which you’re going to have to. To me, Doc needs to stretch Jermaine’s floor time as long as possible tonight. A few extra minutes shouldn’t hurt his defensive effectiveness, and that’s all that’s keeping Boston in this game.
Shore up his rotation? He’s already done that. Only Shaq, Delonte, Jeff Green, and Baby came off the bench on Monday, all in limited minutes, and Shaq is now in a giant full-body cast. Expect to see a lot of Delonte as the only backup guard, a little more from Davis as the only backup big, and about as much Jeff Green as we’re accustomed to seeing. By the way, has anyone in Boston ever referred to Jeff Green by anything other than his full name. I feel like if someone mentioned “Jeff” in a conversation about the Celtics I would be totally confused.
Hold back the Big Three? This seems like an obvious “no”, but even in a pure basketball sense it might be smart to cut into Pierce and KG’s minutes a bit. Ray is a freak, but the other guys can get winded from overuse, and they both just got out of an overtime game in which they looked completely wiped, especially Garnett. If he or any of the other vets are simply too tired to play better than their bench counterparts, it might not be the worst idea to spell them, even if it looks insane in the box score the next day.
Coddle injuries? Well, that’s obviously not happening. For better or worse, Rondo played 38 one-armed minutes on Monday, and Delonte’s shoulder is no longer being discussed. Troy Murphy jammed his finger in a tanning bed yesterday and is day-to-day, but everyone else is fair game.
You just know that every player on this team, with the possible exception of the Player Formerly Known As Glen Davis, wants to be on the floor for all 48 minutes tonight. We’ll see how far Doc will let that desire go.