Garnett is averaging over 40 minutes a game through the first three games and Pierce is averaging a staggering 44 minutes per. What’s more: these aren’t easy mid-February vs. Charlotte cruise control minutes. These are, to repurpose a phrase from MLB, high leverage minutes. Pierce and Garnett are carrying the burden because the Celtics can’t win without them doing so.
Garnett is averaging a sterling 18.3 points and 12.3 rebounds while Pierce has gone for 23 points, 7.7 rebounds and 4 assists. Those are great numbers but the Celtics need contributions from other places to ensure they have enough in the tank to compete in the second round, should they manage to put away the Hawks, and the third, where the Miami Heat will be waiting. That’s one of the problems the playoffs present for a team like the Celtics. It’s a marathon and a sprint. And at their current pace, the Celtics aged trio won’t be able to recover efficiently enough to carry the ball for the next six weeks.
Which means it’s time for the contract-year duo of Brandon Bass and Mickael Pietrus to check into the series on offense.
Bass is averaging 8.0 points and 5.3 rebounds on 45% shooting. He’s getting to the line only 2 times per game. Each of those numbers is a drop-off from his regular season averages.
Pietrus can claim some impressive defensive contributions, particularly a big fourth quarter in game two, but he’s been a disaster on the offensive end. He’s averaging 2 points a game in 21 minutes. He’s shooting 25% from the field and the three-point arc. He’s been called out by his coach and teammates for a lack of focus.
Last season, the Celtics were eliminated by the Heat because Miami’s best players outplayed Boston’s best players. You’d be forgiven if you see that same scenario on the road ahead, particularly if an exhausted Pierce has to line up against LeBron James seven times, and Garnett has to check Chris Bosh and cover Miami pick and rolls and rotate all over the court to cut off Miami penetration.
The job of the Boston role players is to enable the starters.
It’s game four tonight. If not now, then when?