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."

WATCH: Celtics vs. Hornets

WATCH: Celtics vs. Hornets

Tune into CSN to watch the Celtics host the Hornets at TD Garden. You can also click here to watch the Celtics livestream presented by McDonald's on the NBC Sports App. Coverage begins at 7 p.m. with Celtics Pregame Live Presented by ACE Ticket.

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Celtics-Hornets preview: Boston, Charlotte heading in opposite directions

Celtics-Hornets preview: Boston, Charlotte heading in opposite directions

BOSTON -- The last time Boston saw the Charlotte Hornets last month, both teams were streaking in the wrong direction with each coming in having lost three in a row.

Both come into tonight’s game streaking, although in two very different directions.

Boston (25-15) has won 12 of its last 15 games to firmly establish itself as the third-best team in the East behind Cleveland and Toronto. Meanwhile the Hornets (20-20) are on the cusp of falling below .500 for the first time this season after losing their last four games.

Still, Celtics coach Brad Stevens has seen enough of this Hornets team to know that a win tonight won’t come easily.

“This is a good team,” Stevens said. “We all know Charlotte. They don’t beat themselves. We’ve had to play really well against those guys. This is going to be a tough one, as we all know.”

Figuring out why these two teams are trending in opposite directions isn’t all that complicated.

For the Celtics, their success of late has hinged heavily on their ability to make 3-pointers. Meanwhile, Charlotte’s problems have had a lot to do with a tough slate of road games (all four of their recent losses were on the road) and their inability to make shots which has been an issue in some form for them all season regardless of the opponent.

Look at the last four games, all of which the Hornets lost while the Celtics won three of their four games in that span.

The Hornets rank 21st in scoring with a 101.5 points per game average while the Celtics average 110.8 points which ranks 8th in the league.

Charlotte ranks dead-last in the league the last four games when it comes to shooting the ball (40.5 percent), while Boston comes in 18th at 46.0 percent.

But it’s the 3-point shot and its impact on having an effective field goal percentage, that really separates these two.

Boston has averaged a league-best 15.3 made 3-pointers in the last four games while the Hornets and their 9.8 made 3’s ranks 20th.

And as far as its impact on eFG%, Boston comes in with the eighth-best eFG% in the league (54.8 percent) while the Hornets next-to-last in the NBA with an eFG% of .462.

So what does that mean tonight?

Boston will look to continue being fueled offensively by good ball movement and attacking the rim which in turn should result in lots of good looks from 3-point range which is clearly a strength of this team.

Charlotte will search for other sources of offense besides former UConn star Kemba Walker who is on the short list of candidates for a spot on this year’s Eastern Conference all-star roster.

As was the case in Charlotte’s 102-93 loss to the Philadelphia 76ers on Saturday, an off-night shooting for Walker (17 points, 7-for-23 shooting with three assists) left the Hornets extremely vulnerable to defeat. Similar struggles tonight will provide a similar ending for Charlotte which would allow both teams to continue streaking along … something the Celtics wouldn’t mind at all.