The Last Five Games Should Be Used as "Training Camp" for the NBA Playoffs

USA TODAY Sports

Training camp in April? Yes! The next five games will be a training camp of sorts for the Boston Celtics as they must iron out some important parts of their team before the playoffs begin.

While reading the comment section of a recent article posted by Jeff Clark, a comment by a member named "mmmmm," really jumped off the page. He said that the last five games of the season will be "training camp for the postseason."

He's right.

The last five games of this season will be every bit of training camp as those weeks spent over in Europe last October. Doc Rivers has to work out kinks in his team, whether it is injuries, shot distribution, or the bench rotation itself.

So, with games against the Nets, Heat, Magic, Pacers and Raptors upcoming, what do the Boston Celtics need to get ironed out before the playoffs?

The Rotation

This is probably the number one priority for the team. Who will even be playing? With so many moving pieces and new players on the team, we really haven't got the slightest idea on who will be coming off the bench for Boston in the playoffs.

Doc Rivers spoke recently about his plans for the playoff rotation.

Doc Rivers trying to get Boston Celtics' bench settled in - ESPN Boston
"When you say bench in the playoffs, you don't mean five guys," Rivers said. "You mean three guys, maybe four, with one of Paul, Kevin or Jeff will, most likely, always be on the floor."

With that said, one can assume that Doc will roll with a rotation of either eight or nine players. Factoring in Doc Rivers' history with the playoff rotation, we can expect two players off the bench to get between 15 to 25 minutes and an additional two players likely receiving under 10.

Top Big Off the Bench

Doc Rivers will likely use the next five games to figure out who will be the number one big off the bench. The two candidates are Chris Wilcox and Shavlik Randolph.

In recent games, Doc has had Randolph come off the bench first but you can't read too much into that. Randolph appears to be playing in the first and third periods while Wilcox gets time in the second and fourth.

In April, Randolph has averaged 15.8 minutes with 8.5 points and 4.5 rebounds per game and Wilcox has averaged 18.5 minutes with 5.3 points and 5 rebounds per game. Both players have different types of game, Randolph being a banger inside, with the ability to grab offensive rebounds, whereas Wilcox is a lot more suited in pick-and-roll plays in the half court.

During this five game "training camp," what both players show on the defensive end is what will be most important in terms of who is able to get the most minutes in the playoffs. Wilcox no doubt has the upper hand here considering this is his second full year with the team. Shav' was signed only on March 1st but has shown promise. Wilcox is a lot better in his pick-and-roll defense considering his speed and experience, but Randolph might be better suited to handle bigs on the post.

Depending on the matchup, it's possible that both bigs play some minutes, but it's important that the top big off the bench is established so chemistry can be improved with whomever the player is paired with on the floor.

The Guards

Jason Terry is essentially the only guard on the bench who definitely has a spot in the playoff rotation. One might argue that Courtney Lee does too, but considering the huge shooting slump he is in, that isn't a certainty. Lee hasn't been the same since he injured his left ankle in late March against the Dallas Mavericks. He's shooting only 32.3 percent and doesn't seem to be moving as well on the floor either.

This opens the door for Jordan Crawford to get the majority of the minutes off the bench next to Jason Terry. Crawford no doubt is similar to Terry, but Crawford's passing has been quite impressive and his defense hasn't been nearly as bad as advertised. He has "forgotten" about Washington and seems to be a completely new player with Boston.

Considering the spark that Crawford can provide, the Lee vs. Crawford battle will be important to watch over the next five games. If Lee can get back his shooting stroke and prove that he is completely healed from his ankle injury, it's likely that he grabs the spot due to his reliability on the defense. Crawford would then take a role where he plays five to eight minutes and those minutes would be extended if he catches fire.

Unfortunately for Terrence Williams, it appears that both Crawford and Lee are significantly ahead of him on the depth chart. If Williams receives time at all during the final stretch of the season, he must improve his defense and prove that he can run the show offensively in order to potentially grab a role.

Health

This is obvious. The team has got to get completely healthy to amplify their chances in the postseason.

Paul Pierce has missed one game due to an ankle injury and of course he has the neck injury that won't be resolved until the offseason. Kevin Garnett was sidelined for eight games because of an adductor strain.

These next five games should be used to pace these players but also get them back into full game shape so they can go out and play for a 35-to-40 minute grind during the playoffs.

Doc Rivers needs to be careful not to push these guys too hard the rest of the regular season. If either players were to get re-injured it would throw a wrench into the Celtics' chances for success in the playoffs.

Like the real training camp, the next five games must be utilized properly. Garnett, Pierce, and Jason Terry too, must be paced but given enough time to shake off all the rust.

If the Boston Celtics want any chance at all to win Banner 18, Kevin Garnett and Paul Pierce's conditioning is of the utmost importance. With increased minutes in the playoffs, both players must be ready to take on the load.

Shot Distribution

Jeff Green obviously had an incredible month of March and it seeped into April as well, but a lot of his best games came when Kevin Garnett was out with his adductor strain. Green averaged 14.8 shots per game when KG was out but only 11.25 when he played. It's important that Green gets close to 15 shots per game the rest of the way, which was outlined in an article posted earlier this month on how to get the most production out of him.

Jason Terry has averaged only 8.2 shots per game this season, down from his career average of 12.9. In the playoffs, his career shots per game increased to 13.7. According to Rich Levine of CSNNE.com, Terry said, "I'm getting ready for the playoffs. That's why they brought me here."

Terry better be right, because he needs to get more opportunities in the postseason to show that he is a clutch player that can win games for you in the playoffs. Perhaps Doc will make sure JET increases his shots per game down the stretch so he is fully prepared for the playoffs.

The next five games should be used to get these two players integrated into the offense. With Garnett and Pierce back into the fold, Green and Terry naturally may see a dip in shots per game, but it must be established that these players need looks each game.

Seeding

This isn't totally in Boston's control, but if the Celtics wish, they can make a push for the 6th seed which would likely match them up against the Indiana Pacers in the first round. The C's are currently the 7th seed and would face off against the New York Knicks if the season were to end today.

The Celtics can try to make a run for a higher seed if they'd like to face the Pacers. Doc Rivers has said that the only team they wanted to avoid is Miami, but the Milwaukee Bucks fading, Boston shouldn't have to worry too much about that.

Boston must take advantage of these final five games and use them as preparation before the playoffs begin on April 20th.

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