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Praise and Playoffs(?) for Pavlovic

Ryan hinted at this last night in his recap, but I think it bears repeating.  Given Sasha Pavlovic’s recent play, he may have snuck himself into the playoff rotation.  There are a lot of caveats here–most notably the health of Mickael Pietrus and Pavlovic’s consistent production– but even if things shake out well with Pietrus, Pavlovic may still get minutes come playoff time.

There are a few reasons for this.  First, Pavlovic can play defense. If you can play defense, you can play for Doc Rivers.  It’s one of the reasons Sasha was signed before other minimum players like Michael Redd or Tracy McGrady.   Pavlovic uses his length well and can laterally enough to stay in front of most swingmen.  He gets his fair share of blocking calls when trying to keep up with the speedier slashers, which is why a lot of times you’ll see him like this:


But even if he gets checked out of the way, that type of physicality will deter even the most ardent drivers.  Along with his lateral anticipation skills, he also has shown to be a fairly good transition defender.  Here’s a video of him blocking Sebastian Telfair, a play he made while playing for the Hornets:

While it’s not the same as last night’s block on Thaddeus Young (video will be up later today), the same chase down characteristic is consistent.

Secondly, it appears as thought Rivers trusts Pavlovic.  The fact that Rivers has sent Pavlovic in early for the last seven games speaks volumes.  It’s easy to point out that the injury to Pietrus and the necessity to rest Pierce as the season comes to a close has painted Rivers into a Pavlovic playing corner.  But that would ignore Rivers past penchant for playing his starters well over 35+ minutes, ignoring all sense of preservation (the alliteration is over, I promise).  Rivers has sent him, and Sasha has not disappointed on either end of the floor, thus contributing to his increased playing time.

Pavlovic has also shown some signs of life on the offensive end, the most encouraging output occurring last night where Sasha knocked down a couple of open threes.  When the playoffs ramp up, defenses will become more aggressive in their double teams and you can be sure teams will be leaving Pavlovic open.  If you’re on a team faced with guarding a lineup that consists of Kevin Garnett, Brandon Bass, Ray Allen, Avery Bradley, and Sasha Pavlovic, who do you leave open to double team Garnett?  It’s Pavlovic every time, unless he’s knocking down those open threes.

Finally, Pavlovic plays with energy.  He crashes the glass, he doesn’t give up on plays, and he chases his man everywhere on the court.  For a team that can sometimes lack the ability to sustain the type of energy needed to eek out wins in the playoffs, Pavlovic is a welcome sign.

Okay, so that’s a lot of praise for a end of the rotation guy at best.  That said, there’s a reason Pavlovic is on the team rather than the other veteran minimum guys I mentioned earlier.  He has the ability to do little things in the time he’s alotted to come out with a net positive.  Enough so that both Doc Rivers and Paul Pierce mentioned Sasha by name when talking about the bench play.  Sure, he could easily revert back to the dude who lacked the confidence and skill to crack the Celtics’ rotation and never see the court again.  I just wouldn’t be surprised if Pavlovic averages five to ten minutes a game during the playoffs provided that he keeps playing well down the stretch.

  • lucidsportsfan

    Good points. But if Pietrus can get healthy I'd much rather see him in there. He's bigger, more athletic, and less likely to be left open to double Garnett.

    • The Cardinal

      I think Doc could use a 9 man rotation with Sasha at SF, Pietrus at the 2, and Bradley at the 1 on the second unit, provided Pietrus recovers.

  • -jp

    this team has been destroyed by injuries, starting with Jeff Green up to now with Peitrus, really incredible about where they are now. Says tons about Doc and the leadership on this team

  • Ben

    Does anyone have any idea as to why Marquis hasn't been getting any playing time? I know that there was that one game against the pacers (I think it was the pacers) a few weeks ago where Doc put Marquis in as first sub for Pierce, and he made a bone-headed play that led to a turnover, and was subbed out shortly thereafter for Pavlovic, but I'm just wondering as to why he never gets any playing time, because I feel like he could be a decent contributor if given a little more playing time.

    • CG12

      Because he has played like crap when he did get minutes? I like Quisy, but he has not looked good all season.

  • Josh

    If we had Pietrus, Green and Wilcox healthy, we would be destroying people.

  • skeeds

    Look, we already know Sasha has a certain level of skill and understanding of the game. He's been a starter in at least 2 serious playoff runs of the Cavs. Mediocre as he is, there are some fundamental elements you can be sure he has. He's focused. He doesn't make stupid decisions. He doesn't get cheap fouls. He has a certain level of stability in his performance. And he always goes for the block. I love guys that do that.

    Shots falling is a byproduct of getting into a routine. And Doc is the best at doing that, maybe after Popovic. He sends his players in with clear objectives, focus and understanding of their role.

    When your 8th man in the rotation knows he's going in for that many possessions, to defend each one, block any shot he can, grab any available rebounds and take 4 shots, it's easier for him to focus into doing those 4 things as best as possible.
    With Pietrus attempting to return from a bad concussion, (an awful thing to try and shake off), Pavlovic getting into rhythm is a blessing…

  • yeah

    Okay so

    Pierce, Pietrus and Pavlovic stay
    Green signs

    And we get stacked at the 3.

  • Bly

    You guys need a copy editor.

  • Anthony

    How about a praise for Rondo? With Nash getting only 5 assist tonight, Rondo is now the league leader in assist per game. It's the exact opposite of what happened last year when Nash took over the lead in the final weeks.

  • Cavs Guy

    (Cavs fan here) You must not remember, but Sasha is famous for his quote on his defense (http://www.nytimes.com/2007/05/08/sports/basketball/08nets.html): "His offense is his defense."

    Has he improved? Maybe. Does this team help cover up some of his faults? Maybe. But don't tell me "Pavlovic can play defense." Laughable!

    • Handsome

      Ahh yes. A quote from a player uttered 5 years ago is supposed to define him forever apparently. Try watching Pav play nowadays. You might be surprised at what you see.