I think I once heard that the NBA season is a marathon and not a sprint, but I'd be inclined to argue that statement based on the Celtics' schedule thus far. Fortunately, the pace of this season will drop off somewhat over the course of the next week and the C's will finally be able to catch their breath. Eight games in 12 nights might be fun for us as fans, but between the pace of play, the travel, and the late nights, I can only imagine how grueling it must be for the players.
The good news is we escaped that eight game stretch with a 7-1 record and we won't take the court again until Wednesday when the Utah Jazz visit the Garden. The fatigue was clearly visible last night, as we needed all four quarters to vanquish a win-less and maimed Nets squad that managed to dress only eight players. We were fortunate, in my opinion, as I think a healthier and more polished opponent might have gotten the better of us after we fell to Phoenix on Friday.
"I didn't think we had a lot in the tank," Doc Rivers said afterwards. "I could see that. That's why I sat our starters for long stretches today and I was just trying to milk the game as long as I could get it and then pray at the end that we had enough to win."
The point is the guys dug in and survived and can now exhale, as they have the next three days to catch up on some much needed rest and practice. I expect Doc to give the guys Sunday off completely and I'm tempted to say the players will take advantage of it. Danny Ainge recently remarked on Paul Pierce's work ethic this season, but I don't think anyone's going to argue with Paul or anyone else sitting down for a day.
There were some steady signs of fatigue setting in over the past three games, particularly the team's performance from three-point land.
In the past three contests we've made just 10 of 47 three-point attempts (21.3 percent), which to me suggests tired legs, plain and simple. Rasheed Wallace in particular has struggled from deep in the same stretch as he's made only two of his last 17 attempts from three (11.8 percent).
Besides rest, this team also values practice time and will be able to get back to Waltham on Monday and Tuesday to clean up a few small issues. Pick and roll defense has given us fits the past two games, as both Steve Nash and Rafer Alston exploited our weaknesses there. Fortunately, Doc's on top of it.
"Some of our defensive rotations," said Doc when asked about what the team would work on at practice Monday and Tuesday. "We absolutely have to get back to that. Offensively, more movement. I thought we were just standing around a lot (against the Nets)."
I read some other comments expressing concern about this team being so spent after only eight games, but let's not forget that it's been eight games in twelve days. Let it be known that the next eight games will be played over the course of 17 days, which is obviously a colossal difference. Sure the Celtics have some older players, but I think it's fair to say that any team in the NBA would experience fatigue and a drop in its play after playing eight games in twelve nights.
Also, I think the Celtics just kind of got caught in a tough stretch these past three games. They flat out played poorly on Minnesota on Wednesday and I credit that to just being "one of those games". Then, they followed that up with a hard fought loss to Phoenix, which fatigued them for Saturday's game against the Nets.
Fortunately, the bench has been phenomenal thus far and a big part of our 7-1 record goes to the pine guys and their stellar play. Here's to a successful first eight games and an admirable showing in the season's first rough stretch. For the next few weeks, the schedule will be a little kinder to us.