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5-on-5: Playoffs, Rotations, Refs

1) Considering the recent wins over Miami, would the Celtics have been better off with the seventh seed, a first round matchup with the Heat and a date with the Bulls no earlier than the ECF?

Hayes Davenport: I cannot believe I’m saying this, but yes: I’d love to take on the Heat in a playoff series right now. It’s like how you’re supposed to punch a guy in the face on your first day in jail: I’d prefer to confront Miami early, before they get their playoff rhythm going and while Boston still has some momentum from these recent victories. I’d also prefer to face Chicago as late as possible to increase the odds of one of their rotation players getting injured. Is that mean?

Michael Pina:
Yes, the Celtics have defeated the Heat in their last two meetings, but LeBron and Wade still make that team one of the league’s most formidable. What I’d really like to see is the Celtics catch Indiana for the third seed, play a beatable team like Orlando or Atlanta in the first round, meet Miami in the second round, and take things from there.

Chris Forsberg: Earlier in the season, this absolutely seemed like the best plan of attack. But back then the Celtics were so inconsistent, it seemed like they needed some sort of gimmick in order to get through the playoffs. Now? Boston is playing like a legitimate contender and there’s no real reason to make things more difficult than they need to be. Yes, avoiding the Bulls for as long as possible remains in this team’s best interest, but there’s really no reason for a good team to desire a matchup with the defending Eastern Conference champions.

Ryan DeGama: I’m torn. On one hand, I’ve no appetite for seven games of Wade and James hurling themselves into the paint and fouling out the entire Celtics frontcourt. On the other hand, Miami again appears vulnerable to Boston, and the Celtics could reframe the entire playoff picture if they take them down. I’m going to accept your offer, but only because there’s a decent chance Derrick Rose ends up battling injuries throughout the playoffs. It make sense for the C’s to take on Miami when they’re fresh and Chicago later, when Rose may be worn down or injured.

Brian Robb: No. The way this team is playing right now, they shouldn’t be worrying who they are playing or when. Given the craziness of a condensed season, I’d take the slim chances Miami or Chicago is upset by the upstart Knicks in the second round, rather than guaranteeing myself a date with the Eastern Conference elite right out of the gate early. You’re likely going to have to go through both teams anyway, so making things easier in earlier rounds (with home court advantage) makes the most sense to me.

2) It looks like Mickael Pietrus has returned to form. Do you think there is a place for Sasha Pavlovic in the playoff rotation or does he go back to his role of permanent bench sitter?

Davenport: I think his floor time will be significantly reduced, yes. I love what Pavlovic was doing for the team. He’s a surprisingly strong and speedy defender, and he works very well at facilitating both the offensive and defensive systems: he makes extra passes well and knows where he’s supposed to be. He’s like the Windows Disk Cleanup app of the Celtics (solid nickname potential there). But Pietrus is a better defender and scorer. However, if Pietrus starts gunning way too much and messes with this newfound chemistry, I don’t think Doc should be scared to give Sasha his minutes back.

Pina:Sasha has done everything that’s been asked of him in these last few games. He’s knocked down wide open shots and played solid perimeter defense, but he can’t create his own shot, and he isn’t athletic enough to be a rebounding presence. These are two things Pietrus brings to the table, and substituting him in for Pavlovic on the Bradley, Allen, Stiemsma, Garnett group that Doc’s been going to at the start of the second and fourth quarters this past week makes that unit an even greater weapon. Love what Sasha has done, but eight is enough the rest of the way.

Forsberg: If both Pietrus and Ray Allen are healthy, then there’s probably nothing more than some foul-trouble minutes for Pavlovic. Sure, he’s playing some inspired ball right now, mixing his typically steady defense with more confidence in his 3-point shot. But his role on this team is to be able to fill emergency situations and not be a liability (dare I say he’s downright Scalabrine like in that sense). Pavlovic is excellent depth to have on the wing when he’s playing like this, but it’s not a problem if playoff minutes are not bountiful for him as it means the team is otherwise healthy.

DeGama: He’s this year’s Nate Robinson. Expect extended pine time and the odd stretch where he knocks down a couple of big three pointers or plays a few minutes of harassing defense.

Robb: Yes, Sasha will have his chances to contribute. It probably won’t be consistent game-to-game but the swingman has put together a solid enough stretch now on both ends of the floor that it would be foolish to count him out entirely. The key to his minutes could be his ability to continue be a threat on the floor offensively (7/10 from downtown this month). He won’t keep that up, but if he’s hitting up to space the floor and keep opposing defenses honest, Sasha will get his chances, especially if Ray Allen’s ankle continues to be a problem.

3) Do you think the Celtics would be a better team if Jermaine O’Neal and Chris Wilcox had not gotten hurt or would you rather have the chemistry that has developed with the new lineup?

Davenport: I’ll take Wilcox and leave O’Neal. Wilcox would still be a huge boost coming off the bench. I don’t care if it expands Doc’s playoff rotation to nine: at some point his old veterans are going to have to start playing fewer minutes. Losing O’Neal, meanwhile, was among the most positive developments of this second half, because it brought Brandon Bass into the starting lineup for an offensive injection and it maximized Garnett’s value because it reminded him about scoring inside again.

Pina: To put it nicely, everything happens for a reason. The injuries to Chris Wilcox and Jermaine O’Neal have allowed Garnett to start at center, and Bass to start at power forward, which gives Rondo more spacing/weapons and the offense more versatility. Despite their continued rebounding woes, what the Celtics have now is light years ahead of what they started the season with, and I wouldn’t change a thing.

Forsberg: I think we can all agree that the constant injury situation with O’Neal wasn’t exactly a positive for this team. If he doesn’t get injured (again), then maybe Kevin Garnett never slides full-time into the center role and who knows how it all plays out for Boston from there. I do think the Celtics would be better if they had Wilcox as a bench option, particularly given the team’s lack of size overall. He would have aided the rebounding deficiency and was another guy that could run the floor. His absence, however, has allowed Greg Stiemsma to flourish with more consistent minutes.

DeGama: I reject the premise of your question. In what year-3000, futuristic sci-fi world was Jermaine O’Neal not getting hurt? The fact he fell apart early and completely at least gave Doc and Danny time to figure out who would replace him. The Wilcox injury hurts a lot more because the Celtics have no playoff worthy bigs behind Greg Stiemsma and Brandon Bass, the latter of whom gave us all heart failure for a few minutes last night. If Bass had been hurt, it would have been nice if Wilcox was there to fill his spot.

Robb:Can I keep those guys separated? When Wilcox went down, I thought he was really in the process of hitting his stride, grasping the C’s system on both sides of the floor, so I think it’s a bit foolish to say the team would be better without him. His rebounding will be missed when the postseason arrives. Jermaine O’Neal on the other hand, wasn’t capable of giving this team much, so I think it’s no concidence the team has taken off without him, freeing up his minutes to the Stiemer.

4) The Celtics have six games in the next nine days. Luckily, three of them are against Toronto, New Jersey, and Charlotte. If you’re Doc Rivers, do you start resting your starters and expand your rotation or do you keep everybody in rhythm?

Davenport: I think you rest your guys. See question 1. Looking at Indiana’s schedule, they should probably win at least six of their next eight games, so I think the 3-seed is out of reach. Between seeds 4 and 7, I absolutely don’t care where Boston ends up, and I don’t care about losing games in the name of resting the veterans. It would be nice if the starters got SOME time together in every game so they can stay familiar with each other. But I don’t think sitting KG for an extra 15 minutes against the Bobcats is going to mess up their rhythm.

Pina: As I previously mentioned, the Celtics should still have something to play for as they try to catch the Pacers for a three seed. Just as I wouldn’t touch the keys on a vintage car that’s low on gas yet inexplicably chugging along, if I’m Doc Rivers I don’t change a thing with this team.

Forsberg: If the Celtics win Friday night in Toronto, then three straight wins would likely afford the team the opportunity to trot out the junior varsity lineup on Saturday in New Jersey (all while allowing the veterans to rest for what would seemingly be a fairly breezy night in Charlotte on Sunday). Sure, you run the risk of taking a loss by leaning on younger players on Saturday night, but wins this week over Miami and Atlanta have given Boston a bit of a mulligan along the way here. Yes, the standings remain crowded and every win is important, but getting rest in the middle of this back-to-back-to-back could be key to winning at least 2 of 3.

DeGama: He should rest them and he will. Rivers all but said so on WEEI this morning. He underplayed the value of seeding compared to health and it’s hard to argue with him. With any mid-seed from 3-6, the Celtics are going to be favored to escape the first round. As long as they’re healthy, things will remain interesting this spring. That’s the major concern right now.

Robb: You have to rest your guys at some point. Doc has done the best he can so far with the high wire act of balancing minutes and wins, but even the youngest and healthiest teams in the league should rest guys in a stretch like this. With a number of wins under their belt now, the Celts’ have a little cushion to deal with as they face three non-playoff opponents this weekend. Staggering a night off for each of the veteran starters would appear to make the most sense.

5) When will the refs figure out that Greg Stiemsma doesn’t foul someone every time he gets within three feet of him?

Davenport: The thing about these Stiemsma calls is that they’re usually right: Stiemsma has almost always committed a foul when he gets whistled (last night’s tangle with Josh Smith being a notable exception) because he tends to stick his arms out in front of him to go for the block instead of straight up. The problem is that he gets whistled every time he does this, whereas refs usually look the other way 30-40% of the time. But he’s absolutely going to get fewer whistles as refs start going easier on him and he simultaneously learns what to do with his arms.

Pina: Sometimes I feel like Doc needs to get himself ejected on one of these atrocious Stiemsma related calls, just to make a forceful statement to the league that the way his guy is being treated by the refs on a nightly basis simply doesn’t make sense.

Forsberg: It’s kinda hilarious at this point, right? Well, probably not for Stiemsma, but there was one point in Wednesday’s game where the referee blew the whistle while a Hawks player was still driving towards Stiemsma (contact didn’t come for a second later). Such is life as a rookie. As Doc Rivers said Tuesday in Miami, he gets six of them and he mights as well use them up if he’s only playing 25 minutes per night. Eventually he’ll start getting the benefit of the doubt from officials more often.

DeGama: After the first playoff game where he fouls out in 18 minutes and the Celtics send a video package to the league complaining about how he’s being officiated. One of my least favorite things in the playoffs is the malleability of how games are called, but the Celtics might as well use it to their advantage.

Robb: They have to hope it’s by the end of April. I’m actually happy in a way there has been so much attention on this right now for a couple reasons. First, it hasn’t cost the C’s any games in the standings. Second, it’s giving Stiemsma first hand experience of the rookie treatment that will be applied to him perhaps even more harshly in the postseason. At least for now, Stiemsma knows it is coming and hasn’t let it affect his play in any way and that’s a good thing. When the playoffs arrive though, he may be wise enough to pick his spots a bit better at times on defense to ensure he can stay on the floor for more than 20 minutes a game if Doc needs him.

  • janos

    Hi Brayden, is Janos
    Celtics NBa outlooks : Win, win, win, win, win, win, win, win, win

    Do you like my outlooks?

    Ryan not answer question 1 proper, was yes and no question , he just do double talk . Can you ask him re-answer question. otherwise is great articles what i Read ( I stop after questin 1 to make post)


    • CsFanInArkansas

      I would like to offer you the head football coach job at the University of Arkansas…ours just got canned.


      (by the way, I think we have a better shot at taking out Miami or Chicago or BOTH this year in the playoffs. It just feels like this team is a little more dialed in right now.)

      • janos

        Hi Cfans
        Thank you offer job me, you have open too basketball ?

        I like accept job, but need time off june watch celtics nba #18

  • lakershater13

    How many people would take Westbrook over Rondo?

    • CG12

      Not in a million years. Westbrook is a total jackass and not a real point guard. Heck of an athlete, though.

    • Anthony

      NO WAY!! Not unless you want OKC to win the championship.

      I apologize to everyone for saying trade Rondo at the beginning of this year. His sulking was really affecting his game But it's been night and day since then and just a beautiful thing to watch the way he's orchestrating the games now.

    • lakershater13

      Thank you both for saying that. In a previous post I said Rondo should be in the discussion for MVP over Westbrook. I was told that Westbrook would be taken over Rondo 10 out of 10 times. I disagree.

      I think the dislikes were because people thought I wanted Westbrook over Rondo. I prefer Rondo I was just trying to get other peoples takes on the the two players.

    • skeeds

      Westbrook is an amazing player, but not a PG. More like a combo SG. He thrives in a non-pg type of offense, (as does Rose). To put it simply. IF my team has a Durant, the best scorer in the league who needs no one to find him open looks, I take Westbrook.
      In any other situation, Rondo. There's only 1 point guard who's close his level of controlling a game, CP3. That's about it.

      • alex

        Agreed. It also explains why Rondo got cut/"withdrew" from the Olympic team. If you've got a bunch of guys who can create their own shot, he's not that valuable.

    • yeah

      Psh I would take Bradley over Westbrook. Humility is EVERYTHING

      • OKCeltic

        Yeah/CG12 – And what insight do you two have into Westbrook that gives you the authority to make the statements you're making. I live near Westbrook and several other Thunder players. As with many athletes, what you see on TV is not a true sense of their personalities. Every single one of the Thunder has been a model citizen and do great things in the community. Don't judge unless you know them outside the arena.
        This is my favorite Celtics site, but it disappoints me when some of you comment on subject/people you know nothing about.
        For what the C's need, I agree Rondo is the right type of point guard. For the Thunder it's Westbrook. If he wasn't, it's highly unlikely they would have the record they have nor would they have signed him to the contract they did.

  • CG12

    The Stiemer definitely needs to improve on keeping his arms away from the ballhandler's mid-section. He has a tendency to get that left arm out, which will get called as a foul most every time. But he will get better and he will get more respect from the refs.

  • Ryan DeGama

    Question for everyone…

    Is this the best prolonged stretch in Rondo's career?

    • NHBluesMan

      easily- this has got to be his best season too. Between the assist streak and the triple-double against new york with the 15+ points, assists, and rebounds, and his renewed leadership on the court, i'm so glad we didn't trade him

    • lakershater13

      09 playoffs he basically averaged a triple double. That was impressive. This is the best assist streak since 1992. So ill take this stretch as his best. The first few games of last season were extremely impressive as well.

    • yep

      • janos

        HI Michael David, is Janos
        Are you enjoy Celtics right now. I am too, sure.

        I agree, is best Rondos ever.

    • aaron

      yes, he is running the offense better than he ever has, sure turnovers are high, but that is cause Doc yelled at him enough to run the ball, he is pushing it to win.
      o, and his defensive attitude has stepped up as well with AB on the court, just a plus.

    • Josh

      Yes and by far. As somebody mentioned earlier, only the 09 playoff series vs the Bulls compares to what hes doing now. I think he entered a cheat code.

  • Anthony

    1) Why would you want to play Miami in the 1st round? Let them be someone else's problem and when/if they can get through and face the Celts, we will know and have the confidence that we can win.

    2) Sasha has handle his role in a very professional manner so I don't have any problem with a reduction in his minutes. If MP, Ray, Pierce, AB needs some rest, we know that Sasha can fill the role. It just adds to a deeper rotation.

    3) The Celts were better without JO. Wilcox, however, is a different story. He was really starting hit his stride and play well especially running the breaks with Rondo.

    4) Keep winning and get the best possible seed for the playoffs. They can get more rest having home-court advantage in the 1st round and maybe 2nd round if Miami or Chicago falters.

    5) It's good experience for Stiemsma but hopefully the ref will allow for more of his aggressiveness come playoff-time.

  • skeeds

    The Sahsa-Pietrus question is very interesting. Sasha's solid and constant contribution, means Doc shouldn't have a problem to go with either one or the other. Their very good defensive level means none of the 2 hurts the team's biggest advantage.
    So according to: how the game is flowing, who's hot or not from beyond the arc, who's rested, what the matchups are, all that group including Bradley, Ray, Pietrus and Sasha will be used accordingly.

    For example, against a beastly strong forward like Lebron, who will try to post up against everyone smaller than him, Sasha might be much more useful because of his body type, the same way Bradley should see heavy minutes against Wade, since he's the only wing we have that can stay in front of him.

    • NHBluesMan

      except Pietrus is taller and has a longer wing-span than Sasha, so he would match up better with LeBron

      • skeeds

        except actually, Sasha's listed about 2 inches taller and up to 20 pounds heavier, according to any site I looked.
        If you're gonna correct someone, do a google search first.

        • Rav

          And, Sasha has extensive experience of guarding Lebron in practice, through once being a Cavalier.

        • NHBluesMan

          i stand corrected. Must've remembered wrong from another article. My bad

  • green-boner

    davenport is a faggotron for saying stiemsma always deserves the fouls.the officiating is fucked up you gotta nut up or shut up! …..slut

    • kindly leave

    • tbunny

      Easy on the hate speech dude. What I appreciate most about Stiemsma is that even though the refs are calling every thing he doesn't make it about his reaction. Ray Allen gets royally pissed compared to how Stiemsma reacts to bogus calls lol. Ray is like WHAT!!! YOU CALLED THAT!!! Stiemsma at most sort of holds his arms out like huh?

    • janos

      Hi Green-boner, is Janos
      do not come here talk bad Haynes. do not do that. Ever.

  • W2.

    Tremendous insight.

  • tbunny

    Did anyone watch the Heat-Bulls game last night? I generally hate making predictions because it's so easy to be wrong, so let's keep this real quiet and for true celtics fans only…..

    Based on the way the Heat played last night, I think it's very unlikely that team can win a title. SHHHHHH. The celtics have a better chance at the title than the Heat do. SHHHHHHH. The Heat have a prolific scorer, an all nba shooting guard, a pretty good power forward who's often soft and…..nothing. Really, we're supposed to believe that team is a contender when they don't have a credible 1 or 5? When they have no bench to speak of? That team just got terribly exposed against a Bulls team that didn't play real well and was saddled with a hurt and out of shape Rose. A few weeks ago I heard some analyst say the Heat have a better supporting cast this year. No they don't. It's worse. Yes they can beat any team on any given night through individual virtuosity. That doesn't cut it in the playoffs against disciplined team ball. If I were a Heat fan I would be in panic mode right now. SHHHHHHH

    • NHBluesMan

      it's true- the Heat picked up an old Shane Battier (who can barely hit a wide-open shot) and got a rookie who started hot and then hasn't played since.

      last year they had some legitimate size down low with Big Z and Dampier, but they couldn't make good use of it cause they wanted to run. This year they're smaller, but inconsistant, and they're running game is tiring them out (in addition to LeBron playing huge minutes every night). I'll be surprised if they have anything left in the tank by the time (that's IF) they get to the ECF.

      The only team that bothers me in the East right now is Chicago, and that's just because they have the height advantage down low… plus they stole our leprechaun (Scal)

  • Josh

    tbunny is right on the money. If you told me Rose would go 1-13 with 2 pts and the Bulls would still beat a healthy Miami squad by 10, I would bet the house your wrong. Miami has NO bench and NO bigs. They got expooooosed last night and it makes me giggle like a school girl!