Rivers faces tough task of lowering Garnett's minutes


Rivers faces tough task of lowering Garnett's minutes

MIAMI This time of year, it's a given that the best NBA players with games remaining on the docket will play more minutes.

Fatigue is always a concern, even more so - you would think - for a team like the Boston Celtics.

No need to toss out the old man jokes, or the geriatric jabs, either.

They know.

For C's coach Doc Rivers, it's not that big of a concern despite having a team that's significantly older than his opponent, the Miami Heat.

And with just one day in between the games, it's not like they're going to get a ton of rest, either.

Rajon Rondo (46.5), Ray Allen (41.4) and Paul Pierce (40.5) are all averaging more than 40 minutes per game - all significantly higher than their regular season averages.

But it's the guy next in line for minutes played - Kevin Garnett - who Rivers would love to find a way to drop his minutes a little bit.

Throughout the season, Rivers has gone to great lengths to keep Garnett's minutes in the low to mid-30s.

Four games into this series, and Garnett has already a pair of games in which he played more than 40 minutes - a trend Rivers has no intention of continuing, if it can be helped.

But truthfully, it can't.

The C's have every intention of doing all it can to win this series.

Part of that blueprint for success involves Garnett logging major minutes because of his ability to impact the game in the paint at both ends of the floor.

When games end and Rivers is given a final statistic sheet of the night's events, the first thing his eyes gravitate on, is the minutes played by Garnett.

He did so once again after Boston's 93-91 overtime win in Game 4 that has the series now tied at 2-2 with Game 5 in Miami on Tuesday.

"I went right to Kevin's minutes," Rivers said. "And I turned to my coaches and said, 'I don't like this.' This is twice in this series.

Rivers was bothered by Garnett playing more than 43 minutes.

"It's too many," Rivers said. "Obviously it's tough to avoid in overtime."

The concern, naturally, is that it will impact his ability to be a factor tomorrow night in a pivotal Game 5 battle that's likely to include the return of Chris Bosh (abdominal strain) who may see his first action in this series.

"I just know that that's a lot of minutes," Rivers reiterated. "That's twice now in four games in eight days. That's just a lot of minutes for him."

Horford's all-around play key in first regular season game with Celtics

Horford's all-around play key in first regular season game with Celtics

BOSTON – The Al Horford love fest continues with the veteran big man delivering yet another impressive performance for the Boston Celtics.

And this one?

Unlike his play in the preseason, Wednesday night's game counts.

Horford’s all-around play was pivotal to Boston holding on for a 122-117 victory over the Brooklyn Nets.

CELTICS 122, NETS 117:

The four-time All-Star made several high-basketball IQ-type plays that in hindsight, were major key moments in Boston pushing its lead to as many as 23 points.

In the third quarter with Boston ahead 71-65, Horford took advantage of Brooklyn closing out too hard on him and drove into the lane. As the Nets defenders collapsed to take away a shot attempt in the lane, Horford swung the ball to Jae Crowder whose jumper triggered a 14-5 run.

Boston would lead by double figures until the last couple of minutes of the game.

“We have to keep playing the right way, for 48 minutes,” Horford said when asked about the team’s late-game collapse.

The late-game struggles aside, there was a lot to like about how the Celtics played throughout the first 40 minutes.

And a big part of that strong play has to be credited to Horford whose ability to help keep the ball moving allowed the Celtics to finish with 36 assists on 48 made field goals, the kind of opening night assist numbers that haven’t been seen around these parts in decades.

Horford was among those getting into the act, scoring 11 points to go with five rebounds and six assists.

To see him racking up guard-like assist numbers isn’t unusual when you consider he was third in the league last season in assists per game (3.2) for a center.

“Guys were moving the ball very well,” Horford said. “It’s kind of contagious.”

Said Crowder: “I never saw coaches clap on a three-second call. We moved the ball in the first quarter so much we got a three-second call. We passed up a lot of open shots. It just shows how unselfish we are playing as a unit.”

And while that selfless brand of basketball was on display at times last season, the addition of Horford seems to have taken it to another level.

“He opens the floor, he makes it easier for everybody; he’s always in the right spots, he’s a threat at all times,” said Boston’s Isaiah Thomas. “He can hit the 3, hit the mid-range, and also post up so he has the full package; a guy that makes it easy for everybody.”