Big decision for Rivers: Starters or second unit?


Big decision for Rivers: Starters or second unit?

BOSTON Up by 11 points with about six minutes to play, Boston Celtics coach Doc Rivers had a choice: continuing playing the backups who actually increased the lead from where it was at the start of the fourth, or bring back his starters.

Rivers chose door number 1.

The bench got cold, and he brought back the starters who were even more frigid.

End result?

Cleveland closed out the game with a 12-0 run, and the C's lost, 88-87.

You can go through all the choke-job references you want, with most being applicable to the game's unexpected ending.

But just as important, the game's final frame showcased one of the many challenges Rivers will have this season.

He has a core group of players that, understandably so, he has a tremendous amount of loyalty for who are accustomed to playing a good chunk of the fourth quarter.

But he has a hungry, talented second unit of players who on this particular night, seemed to have earned the right to be on the floor for extended minutes in the fourth quarter.

It was the kind of from-the-gut decision that Rivers has made often.

Sometimes it works.

Other times like Sunday?

Not so much.

While Paul Pierce understood the decision made by Rivers, it was clear he didn't like it.

"I'm more upset with losing, more so then not getting back in," Pierce said. "I would love to have been in there to finish off the game."

Kevin Garnett, who re-entered the game at the 3:42 to mark with Pierce and Avery Bradley, had no problem with Rivers' decision.

"I trust Doc in any decision that he makes," said Garnett, who later added that it's on the players to, "finish the game off and execute plans, and the such. As players, we have to go out and do our jobs and finish it and we didn't do that. You have to finish games, finish teams."

And that, more than anything else, is why the Celtics lost.

They couldn't make a shot or get enough defensive plays to get the win. When that happens, it doesn't matter if you're a starter or a backup. You're not going to win.

But that's the beauty of this team that still has yet to be whole because of injuries.

There's enough talent on the second unit that on any given night, you could envision Rajon Rondo, or Kevin Garnett or even Paul Pierce, sitting longer than usual.

Even with fewer minutes than usual down the stretch, the C's still had a 7-point lead which should have been more than enough of a cushion to escape with the win.

Sunday night won't be the last time Rivers has to make a call like that.

And it probably won't be the last in which one of the team's core guys sits while his backup plays more.

Whether that decision was a good one or not, there's only one way to determine that - win games.

When that happens, it doesn't matter who was on the floor when the game ended.

Pedroia returns to lineup as Sox look to extend winning streak to six

Pedroia returns to lineup as Sox look to extend winning streak to six

After leaving Thursday night's game in the fifth inning and missing Friday night's game, Dustin Pedroia is back in the Red Sox lineup Saturday as they look to extend their winning streak to six in a 4:05 game against the Seattle Mariners.

Pedroia felt pain his left knee Thursday night and was taken out of the game by manager John Farrell as a precaution. The rainy conditions and wet field were also factors in keeping the second baseman out Thursday and Friday. 

Pedroia (.288, two homers, 21 RBI) had surgery on the knee in October. It's the same leg that was hurt when Manny Machado slid into Pedroia at second base in April, the slide that sparked various confrontations between the Orioles and Red Sox.

Left-hander Brian Johnson (1-0, 7.20 ERA) was called up from Triple-A Pawtucket to make his second start of the season for Boston and right-handed reliever Ben Taylor was optioned to the PawSox. Right-hander Rob Whalen, 23,  comes up from Triple-A Tacoma to make his first start of the season for the Mariners. 

The lineups:

Jean Segura SS
Danny Valencia 1B
Robinson Canó 2B
Nelson Cruz DH
Kyle Seager 3B
Taylor Motter LF
Guillermo Heredia RF
Mike Zunino C
Jarrod Dyson CF
Rob Whalen RHP

Mookie Betts RF
Dustin Pedroia 2B
Xander Bogaerts SS
Andrew Benintendi LF
Hanley Ramirez DH
Mitch Moreland 1B
Jackie Bradley Jr. CF
Sandy Leon C
Deven Marrero 3B
Brian Johnson LHP