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Mapping Out A Plan For Celtics’ Final Five Games

The Celtics have five games remaining in the regular season. They are close to wrapping up the 7th seed in the East, with a three-game lead on the Bucks. Milwaukee also plays a tough schedule themselves in the final week of the regular season. Barring a complete collapse by the C’s, they won’t be playing the Heat in the first round, as the Bucks will get that honor. This may disappoint some CelticsHub readers, who want to see the Heat in the 1st round for whatever reason. I’m not one of those people…and Doc Rivers is not one of those people either.

“I know we’re in the seventh spot. I know we want to stay out of the eighth spot,” Rivers said after the Cleveland loss last week.

So, does Doc really want to avoid the Heat early?

“Of course we would,” Rivers said. “But if we play them, we’ll be ready. But of course we would. Listen, I’m not that dumb. I’m not the brightest guy but come on. Really, you would love to avoid anyone [like Miami]. Listen, no matter who we play, we’re going to play a tough team. It’s going to be New York, Indiana or Miami. There’s no cakewalk for us. It’s going to be hard.”

With the Heat out of the equation, the bigger question now becomes health. Even though the C’s trail the Hawks by 1.5 games (and own the tiebreaker) for the sixth seed, is it worth making a run at that spot to avoid the Knicks?

Paul Pierce shared some thoughts on that and his ailing ankle yesterday at practice.

“It’s getting better,” Pierce said. “I’m getting treatment, doing the necessary things I need to do to be better. It’s doing a lot better.”

Pierce will give it a go tonight against the Nets, but says it will be up to Doc when he will play for the remainder of the regular season.

“I’m going to leave that up to Coach,” Pierce said. “Maybe I’ll talk to him, talk about these last five games, depending on how my body feels, depending on the seeding situation we’re in. We’ll figure something out.”

Rivers knows he wants to lockdown the 7th seed first and what happens after that is anyone’s guess. Rivers has a plan though for resting players, but he isn’t sharing it with reporters.

“Obviously, we have to take care of our position,” Rivers said. “But, for Kevin, rest is always important, and Paul as well. But, other than that, we’ve thought about (resting them), we’ve talked about it.”

So when will the rest come down the stretch for KG and Pierce? With two back-to-backs looming, it’s wise to guess that both veterans won’t play both ends of those back-to-back games.

Whether Doc decides to sit them against a elite team like Miami (who will probably be missing Wade, LeBron and company Friday night themselves) or against poor teams like Orlando or Toronto is the more interesting question.

My guess is we will be able to tell a lot about Doc’s thinking by what happens around the Celtics in the standings. If they have a chance at the 6th seed this weekend (and want to face the Pacers) Pierce and KG could go against Miami. If not, look for Doc to rest them against tougher teams like Miami, and perhaps for part of the Orlando and Toronto games as well. The starting five still needs to gain a little rhythm down the stretch, while also resting up their battered bodies.

Even without those guys, I expect Doc to coach his active guys hard down the stretch, hoping the second unit can steal a couple wins and give the Celts a chance at the 6th seed, if the C’s have no preference for an opponent in the first round. Who is the better matchup for Boston: New York or Indiana? That’s a question we’ll discuss here at CelticsHub in the coming days.

However it shakes out, it should be a interesting final week.

  • hydrofluoric

    I don't think there's any question that the C's CAN beat Indiana. I'm not entirely sure about NYK. Though that said, I'm one who would rather play Miami in round 1. Losing sucks, but losing to the Eastern champs is vastly preferred to losing to Melonoma and friends.

    • jman

      I agree. I prefer Indiana out of the three. Stop the interior and we win. Knicks have perimeter and interior offense which the C's have yet to figure out defensively.

  • High Rollers

    The stats might make this a counter-intuitive (or just plain wrong) suggestion, but it kinda seems like Indiana would be the preferred draw, at least in one sense. Just going with the eye test over the progression of the season, the C's have been much more likely to score points when necessary than get stops. As herky-jerky as our work-in-progress offense has been, it's our defense (assignments, rotations, talking, three-point coverage, transition, etc.) that's been the least consistent. Yes, we've come a long way. Yes, it's still where we hang our hats. But the road has been rough enough that a scorching hot 'Melo & the 'Melo-ettes poses some concern, even if we do manage to get in their heads. It seems much more plausible that these C's with their built-in match-up headache causing professional scoring duo of Pierce and Green will have less trouble scoring on the defensive stalwarts of Indiana than they might have locking down some truly Unconscious 'Bockers. Of course, unsurprisingly K-Mart is having trouble staying healthy, and even bigger than that is Chandler's questionable health status lately. Not to mention, streaky players can go cold at any moment and ruin that crazy rhythm, messing with their own heads in the process.

    So, in short, I'm with Doc that neither will be a cakewalk. Indy would certainly challenge our patchwork O a little but might also play to our strengths in unexpected ways. (Getting into their heads might be even more effective than it would be against NY. For evidence see the Indy series with Miami last year.) NY threatens to expose some lingering defensive bad habits and inconsistencies. The latter, however threatening, is probably a better hurdle to have the opportunity to (try to) clear, simply because it has the potential to make us a better, more confident, more attentive defensive machine should we advance.

  • Josh_5

    Cmon guys, this is crazy. Why would you want to avoid the inevitable. If were gonna lose early, I want a shot at the defending champs. You measure yourself against the best, and always embrace a challenge. I want the 8th spot.

    • janos

      on team go always want more win, not is less unless do a tanks for Durant but on before times was a blessing becase if get first then get that odoms guy no good?

      to my think, is best for more win always the knick are afraid us

  • High Rollers

    I actually had a more pleasant thought — some might say delusion but I'll stick with "pleasant thought." (Picture Tom Hanks in A League of Their Own: "We're gonna win… we're gonna win!" Even though they end up losing, his expression is still apt here.) Don't ask me why b/c I probably can't explain it but… after watching this team all year and seeing where it's at now I can't really currently envision the C's losing more than two games to any of its Eastern foes except Miami, and even them I don't really envision us losing more than three to. To quote Sir Charles, "I might be wrong, but I doooouuubbt it."

    • hydrofluoric

      Just look at the Celtics' postseason history. They've lost 3 games to 8th seeded Philadelphia, 3 games to 8th seeded Chicago, 3 games to 8th seeded Atlanta… never doubt the ability of the Celtics to make things hard on themselves.

  • High Rollers

    You’re right Hydro. But this year is weirder than usual. I admit, the feeling was hard to trust when I had it. Maybe it just feels like the C’s are starting to have an Aha! moment where they’re tired of how hard it’s all been. They know what they’ve got and what they don’t. Cards on the table, all in, no hesitation. That’s probably why I had that otherwise very irrational feeling. But you’re right about history.

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  • hello brian

    i think even they come up with a good plan , they wont be defeating miami heat 😀

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