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.