Starters enjoy well-deserved rest


Starters enjoy well-deserved rest

By A. Sherrod Blakely

BOSTON As the final seconds ticked away at the TD Garden, the Green and White-clad sea of fans weren't the only ones cheering.

Ray Allen. Paul Pierce. Rajon Rondo.

All of the Boston Celtics' starters were off the floor for the entire fourth quarter, rooting for their backups, as the C's delivered an emphatic 110-86 victory over the Utah Jazz.

The C's got off to a fast start, kept it going throughout the first half and continued to pull away in the third quarter.

Utah has been arguably the best come-from-behind team in the NBA this season.

But starting the fourth quarter down by 22 points, on the road, at Boston?

For a moment, the Jazz did make things somewhat interesting.

After a jumper by Utah's Franciso Elson cut Boston's lead to 17 points, the Celtics closed out the quarter with a 6-1 spurt that included four free throws from rookie Semih Erden.

That gave the C's a commanding 22-point lead going into the fourth.

Celtics coach Doc Rivers had every intention of having his reserves finish out the game.

In the fourth, a free throw by Elson cut Boston's lead to 19 points with 4:57 to play.

"I was concerned," Rivers admitted. "They cut it to nineteen and my number (to bring back the starters) was fifteen."

Nate Robinson hit a 3-pointer that pushed Boston's lead back to 22 points.

"I had just told the starters to get stretched," Rivers said. "Because I was thinking they may have to go back in. So it's nice to be able to get any rest."

Especially when it comes in the first game of a back-to-back set.

"It's always good to give them (starters) a chance to rest, especially on back-to-backs," Celtics swingman Marquis Daniels told "Regardless, anytime it's good. We're going to need those guys later on in the season. The more playing time we get, that'll help us out because you never know when we'll be called on."

Glen Davis knows this better than most of Boston's backups.

Davis has started nine games this season in place of Kevin Garnett, who was out with a muscle strain in his lower right leg.

As a starter, Davis averaged 13.7 points per game.

Coming off the bench, he still chips in with a respectable 12.5 points per game while shooting nearly 50 percent from the field as a reserve.

Davis understands the importance of the bench being able to maintain a comfortable lead, with or without a game the following night.

"We need as much rest as possible," Davis told following a 15-point, 7-rebound effort against the Jazz. "Going out there, doing what we do."

A. Sherrod Blakely can be reached at Follow Sherrod on Twitter at http:twitter.comsherrodbcsn

WATCH: Celtics vs. Raptors

WATCH: Celtics vs. Raptors

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Celtics-Raptors preview: DeRozan, Lowry a challenge for Bradley, C's

Celtics-Raptors preview: DeRozan, Lowry a challenge for Bradley, C's

BOSTON – Avery Bradley doesn’t mind being a standout, but this is probably not what he had in mind. 

Injuries have ravaged the Boston Celtics’ starting five to the point where only one player, Bradley, has been with the first unit in all 22 games this season. 

Just like Bradley was looked upon to step his game up in the absence of Isaiah Thomas (right groin) at Orlando on Wednesday, he will once again be challenged to lead Boston (13-9) to victory tonight when the Thomas-less Celtics face the Toronto Raptors. 

Bradley’s emergence as a two-way talent this season has overshadowed at times what has been another season of elite play defensively. 

And he’ll need to be on top of his defensive game tonight against a Raptors All-Star backcourt of Kyle Lowry and DeMar DeRozan. 

Both Lowry and DeRozan present a different kind of challenge for Bradley who will spend time defending each of them at various points during the game. 

Lowry has good size, strength and deceptive quickness in addition to an under-rated perimeter game that will keep Bradley on his toes for sure. 

This season he's averaging 20.8 points, 4.9 rebounds and a career-high 7.6 assists while shooting 42.9 percent on 3's which is also a career mark. 

And DeRozan is having the kind of season that might get him a few league MVP votes. 

His 28.0 points per game ranks fifth in the NBA, but making his numbers even more impressive is that unlike most guards DeRozan doesn’t generate much offense from three-pointers.

DeRozan averages 1.8 three-point attempts per game which is the fewest attempts among any player ranked among the league’s top-25 scorers.

The 6-foot-7 All-Star is the master of the mid-range game which accounts for 31.5 percent of the points he scores. And when he’s not shooting the mid-range, he’s working a defender in one-on-one iso-situations. 

That helps explain why 76.4 percent of his two-point made field goals are unassisted. 

But here’s the thing about Bradley. 

As much as we give him props for what he does defensively, it’s his offense that has put him on the map as a potential All-Star this season. 

Bradley is averaging a career-high 17.9 points while shooting 47.2 percent from the field. He’s also averaging a career-high 7.8 rebounds per game in addition to shooting a career-high 40.7 percent on 3's.

But for Bradley, individual accolades are only going to come his way by the Celtics winning games; preferably against above-average teams like the Toronto Raptors.

And that would make both Bradley and the Celtics stand out this season.