The NBA schedule is a brutal, unrelenting grind and for veterans, the dog days of February and March can have them chomping at the bit for the playoffs to start. Last night, Doc gave Paul Pierce the night off and the Celtics suffered their worst loss of the season to the Bobcats. Was it worth it?
Sure, Doc isn't sitting his older players to preserve them for the immediate future. Tonight's game against the Raptors is just as important as last night's drubbing in Charlotte. It's just one of eighty-two before the playoffs. Doc's thinking long term and hoping that minimizing his older players' minutes will pay dividends when the stakes are higher in April and May. So far, Paul Pierce, Kevin Garnett, and Jason Terry are averaging 34, 30.2, and 27.6 minutes respectively.
Last night's loss to the lowly Bobcats was brutal and maybe Pierce's presence wouldn't have changed the outcome, but it's hard to question Doc's motives. Managing minutes like this paid dividends last season, evidenced by the extra bounce in KG's step in Boston's improbably march to Game 7 of the Eastern Conference Finals. The only doubt that I have is when Doc decides to pull-a-Popovich and with who. Pierce has been playing well over the last week and was even nominated for Eastern Conference Player of the Week. KG, on the hand, has been mired in a 7-29 slump in the last two losses and was probably due for a mental health day. Should Doc have ridden the hot hand and given the defensive anchor a night off against the league's worst offense?
I don't buy Felger's theory of "seed management", but Doc's decision last night does raise some questions. I get that Doc isn't concerned with seeding and if that's true, why not win the games you're suppose to (like last night's game in Charlotte) and sit guys in the 50-50 games like Monday's tilt against Miami? You limit the game film that Spoelstra gets to use to plan against you in the playoffs and you give the Heat a false sense of comfort if they win. I have to think that a loss to the Bobcats without Pierce hurts much more than a loss to the Heat, right? The crew over at CelticsHub detailed the remaining schedule for the Atlantic and if the Celtics can put away teams they're suppose to and age and injury catch up with the Knicks, we could be looking at another division crown.
And here's some food for thought in the argument of whether rest helps. According to NBA.com's newly revamped stats site, the elder statesmen trio of Pierce, Garnett, and Terry have played better on the second night of a back-to-back. The Celtics have played 46 of their 63 games after either 0 days of rest (16 games) or 1 day of rest (30 games). In those games, those three have averaged:
Maybe those numbers mean nothing, but the numbers don't lie. Even in their advanced age, all three players have shown an extra gear on nights when they've needed it. However, their better play hasn't exactly racked up games in the win column either. They've split those sixteen games with tonight's tilt against Toronto as a tie breaker.
Should Doc sit Pierce, Garnett, and Terry against:
bottom feeders (73 votes)
contenders (84 votes)
157 total votes