Celtics cut minutes of Big Four in Game 4

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Celtics cut minutes of Big Four in Game 4

BOSTON In the course of a long playoff run, there are bound to be nights when the stars align perfectly and the basketball gods reward players and teams with a near-perfect night of basketball.

You could say the Boston Celtics had one of those nights in whipping the Atlanta Hawks, 101-79, in Game 4 on Sunday.

More than just a win, the C's also got another added benefit with the lopsided victory -- rest for their core guys.

For most of this series, Boston's Big Four have been logging big minutes.

Pierce came into Game 4 averaging more than 40 minutes per game, the kind of postseason court time Pierce hasn't seen in a decade.

Ray Allen was still working himself into form, playing in just his second game after missing nearly a month due to a right ankle injury. In his first game back (Game 3), he played 37 minutes - more than anyone anticipated heading into the game.

And then there's Kevin Garnett, whose minutes are always a concern to Rivers and have been an even greater concern in the playoffs because of how high they were in the first three games.

That all changed on Sunday.

Pierce led all scorers with 24 points, but did so in less than 17 minutes. "He came out extremely focused," said C's guard Keyon Dooling. "10-for-13 in 16 minutes is pretty amazing."

Garnett had 13 points and five rebounds, doing so in 27 minutes. Ray Allen was on the floor for 19 minutes and finished with 12 points.

The only Celtic player from among the Big Four to play a good deal of minutes was Rondo, who had 20 points and 16 assists with just one turnover, while seeing a team-high 35 minutes of court action.

While the reason for their reduced minutes - a blowout win - is the kind of thing the Celtics will take everyday, it does raise the always-relevant argument between rest vs. rhythm.

"Players like to play," Rivers said. "I always tell you guys that; they really do. I mean, if you gave them their druthers they would probably say, 'well I'd rather play 30 minutes,' because they're rhythmic; they like playing."

But Rivers sees the big picture in all this.

If Boston is to make the kind of deep playoff run they're anticipating, it's sure to take a lot out of all their players, especially the Big Three and Rondo.

So any opportunity this time of year to get them some added rest and still win, has to be embraced for all its worth.

"If you can get two or three of these type of games," Rivers said. "Then it has to help."

Thomas won’t play Friday night vs. Raptors

Thomas won’t play Friday night vs. Raptors

WALTHAM, Mass. – The Celtics are about to hit one of the toughest stretches of the season and they’ll have to do it for at least one more game without their leading scorer, Isaiah Thomas. 
 
Thomas, who suffered a right groin injury on Monday against the Houston Rockets, did not play on Wednesday against Orlando and said that he will not play in Friday night’s game against the Toronto Raptors. 
 
“It’s day to day. I want to play. I want to be out there but it’s the smart decision to hold out and wait until it’s 100 percent,” Thomas said during a Season of Giving event for children of the Military Friends Foundation held at the Celtics’ practice facility. “If it was a playoff game I would be out there for sure.”
 
However, after consulting with a number of medical personnel, Thomas decided the best thing for him and the Celtics was to sit out Friday’s game which, along with Wednesday in Orlando, will be the first two he has missed since the 2014-2015 season. 
 
Thomas said there’s no specific timetable for his return, but he said he is planning to travel with the team to Oklahoma City for their matchup against the Thunder on Sunday. 
 
“It’s eating me a live to sit, but I have to do what’s best for my body, I have to do what’s best for this team,” Thomas said. “I need to be 100 percent healthy to give this team what I can give them.”
 
The Celtics are hoping for similar success they had Wednesday in Orlando (a 117-87 victory) on Friday against Toronto.
 
“They played a hell of a game last night,” Thomas said. “They’ll be ready tomorrow.”
 
The fact that Thomas intends to travel with the team is a good sign that the groin injury isn’t too serious. 
 
If he doesn’t play at Oklahoma City, that likely means he’ll return to action on Wednesday at San Antonio. 
 
“I’m going to do what I can to get back out there on the court,” Thomas said. “I gotta be smart about this. I don’t want this to linger on this season.”
 
Replacing Smart in the lineup against Toronto will most likely be Marcus Smart. 
 
Smart, who has been a replacement starter at small forward and point guard this season, had 13 points, three rebounds, three assists and two steals against the Magic.