WALTHAM The window between knowing who you'll face in the playoffs and the actual first game is a relatively small one - most of the time, at least.
It's certainly not for the Boston Celtics this year.
The C's first playoff game will be Saturday or Sunday, but they already know the opponent will be Atlanta.
It is the only playoff series matchup that has already been determined.
Although the Celtics' docket still includes regular season games against Miami on Tuesday and Milwaukee on Thursday, the C's understand that they have to start shifting their mindset towards the playoffs.
Knowing who they'll face, with nearly a week to prepare, can only help.
"The playoffs, they're going to come quick," said Celtics forward Paul Pierce. "There's a lot of teams that don't know who they're going to play. In the Western Conference, you don't know who the eighth seed is going to be, maybe some seed changes here and there. You play that last game on Thursday, and you got one day to prepare for who you're gonna play Saturday or Sunday."
That's why the Celtics will look to play most of their core guys in at least one of the two remaining regular season games.
However, the C's will be a bit short-handed against Miami on Tuesday. C's coach Doc Rivers has already ruled out Ray Allen (ankle) and Greg Stiemsma (feet) for Tuesday's game, and added that Rajon Rondo (back) and Mickael Pietrus (knee) are both questionable.
Allen has missed 13 games this season with his current ankle injury, which includes the last seven. Stiemsma has been battling foot issues for most of this season, with them getting so bad that he was unable to play in the second half of Boston's loss at Atlanta on Friday. Rondo's back injury, suffered at New York on Tuesday, has kept him out of the last two Celtics game.
While Rivers said there was a chance that he might play Tuesday, Rondo didn't sound nearly as optimistic.
"It's sore a little bit," Rondo said. "It'll be sore for a while, I'm sure."
When asked about playing against the Heat, Rondo said, "We'll see how it feels in the morning."
Rivers also wants to rest Paul Pierce and Kevin Garnett for one of the two remaining games, but he said he wouldn't completely rule out playing in both, either.
"They're going to play at least one game," Rivers said. "There's a chance (that they'll play both games) if I think they feel good and have a good rhythm, yeah, there's a chance. But I'm just going to play it out and see how it goes."
Regardless of how they fare in the remaining regular season games, it's all about getting it done in the playoffs.
"A lot of this practice, preparation for today is not only for Miami, but for Atlanta also," Pierce said. "It's good that we can have these days of practice."