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.