Celtics cut minutes of Big Four in Game 4

Celtics cut minutes of Big Four in Game 4
May 7, 2012, 5:54 pm
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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."