With a playoff spot already clinched by the Boston Celtics, Brad Stevens was asked if he'll rest his starters over the final two games of the regular season.
"[We'll] play the usual [players]. We've really put a lot of emphasis on putting our foot on the gas and leaving it there, and making sure that we're focused on playing well," Stevens responded before Tuesday's tilt against the Toronto Raptors. "In the last four games, three of them being on the road, I thought we had a lot of good moments, and I'm hopeful to build off that."
In all likelihood the Celtics will have a date with LeBron James and the Cleveland Cavaliers, but there's still an outside chance they end up facing the Atlanta Hawks. But the only way that'll happen is if they lose their final two games, and the Indiana Pacers win both of theirs.
Before the Cavaliers threw their home-and-home set this past weekend, they were third in the league with a dominant plus-8.9 Net Rating since March. The Celtics may be better off facing the Hawks, who actually have a worse Net Rating than Boston since their 19-game winning streak was snapped on February 2.
With that in mind, Stevens didn't exactly rule out the possibility of players resting Wednesday against Milwaukee, though he says it's for rest, not for playoff seeding.
"There are a couple [of players who could rest], and we'll talk about it tomorrow," Stevens said. "Hopefully these guys feel pretty good right now as it is, but with the back-to-back and then knowing that we're going to play our first game this weekend, we'll manage [the rest against Milwaukee] tomorrow appropriately."
Even if the Celtics would secretly prefer to face the Hawks, it's unlikely to happen with a strong chance of victory tonight against Toronto. Unlike the Celtics, the Raptors will be resting two of their best players: DeMar DeRozan, who has scored 61 points on 50 shots against the Celtics this season, will be inactive, and Amir Johnson will come off the bench.
"We're going in as the underdogs either way. We can go out there and play freely," rookie Marcus Smart said, who clearly doesn't care about the first round opponent. "You've seen it before in all levels of basketball, when the underdogs play freely, and then there's a turn of events."
Regardless of the opponent, the Boston Celtics will need to keep playing their grinding, high-intensity version of basketball, and maybe, just maybe, they'll stun the world and make a playoff run.