Irish Coffee: Who wants the No. 1 seed more?
|03.21.11 at 2:12 pm ET|
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Arguing that the Eastern Conference’s No. 1 seed is more important to the Bulls than the Celtics, Sports Illustrated’s Ian Thomsen wrote, “The Celtics know they can win on the road, while this Bulls team has yet to win a series under any circumstances.”
The logic is certainly sound, considering the veteran C’s defeated the Cavaliers and Magic and nearly won the 2010 NBA Finals as a No. 4 seed. But these are the Celtics’ probable Eastern Conference playoff matchups if they earn the No. 1 seed …
- First Round: Pacers, Bucks or Bobcats
- Eastern semis: Magic or Hawks
- Conference finals: Bulls or Heat
And these are their probable conference playoff opponents if they get the No. 2 seed …
- First Round: Knicks or 76ers
- Eastern semis: Heat
- Conference finals: Bulls
Now, which would you rather have? Door No. 1, right? Like, by a significant margin. Still, the Celtics seem to be aligning themselves with Thomsen’s thinking — at least, to NBA.com …
Rajon Rondo: “If you ask me personally, I don’t think it’s so important. I think it’s important that we get our chemistry. We have a lot of new guys on our roster and lot of veterans. The focus should be on getting Shaq [O'Neal] back, getting J.O. [Jermaine O'Neal] back. Delonte [West] is getting acquainted. We’ve got to continue finding a way.”
Doc Rivers: “We’re gonna lean on the health side. I’m gonna always go that way, and we hope we can still win games and still get the No. 1 seed. But we’re not gonna get it if it means that we’re gonna have to give up health. Health is gonna be No. 1.
“Any timing when you get healthy is good timing. But I obviously would have preferred it to be right after the All-Star break. That’s when we hoped that everyone would be back and that we’d be able to kind of put the parts together. It just hasn’t happened. There’s nothing we can do about it. So we have to hope to figure it out on the fly.”
We should be able to determine if either team cares less about the top seed than the other simply by taking a look at whether or not Rivers or Bulls head coach Tom Thibodeau are limiting their respective team’s minutes.
In the Celtics’ case, it appeared that way — until Saturday night. The Big Three of Paul Pierce (age 33), Kevin Garnett (34) and Ray Allen (35) had all played fewer minutes than their season averages in the four games between a three-point road loss to the 76ers on March 11 and Saturday night’s 89-85 victory against the Hornets.
In fact, the Big Three all played fewer than 30 minutes in three of those four games — something none had done once since late January — which seemed to signal that the C’s just don’t really care about that No. 1 seed. But that’s until you consider those three games had at least 14-point margins entering the fourth quarter (wins over the Bucks and Pacers, and a loss to the Rockets).
In the Celtics’ only two close games over the last two weeks, Pierce, Garnett and Allen played within three minutes of their season averages in a loss to the Nets and then exceeded their averages of 34.6, 31.5 and 36.0 minutes per game, respectively, on Saturday night.
So, the Celtics actually do care about that top seed.
Rondo’s minutes are a different story, especially when you take into account this from NBA.com …
“Everybody’s asked me, am I hurt?” he said. “I’m fine. It’s an 82-game season. It’s long. Nothing is, I don’t think, too serious. We all have aches and pains, but I don’t think that it’s nothing that’s able to keep me out. I’m playing. I’m just not playing well.”
Rondo hasn’t played his season average in minutes since March 9, and he’s played fewer than 30 minutes in four of his last five games, including Saturday night’s win. Of course, another West comeback and the addition of Carlos Arroyo has allowed the C’s to tread water in his absence.
Joakim Noah and Carlos Boozer are in similar positions. Noah missed two months with a torn thumb ligament and has only exceeded his 34.4 minutes-per-game season average once (against the Heat) since his Feb. 23 return. Boozer has missed the last five games with a sprained ankle and is expected to return Monday against the Kings.
But Thibodeau isn’t limiting the minutes for his two other main cogs, Derrick Rose and Luol Deng. They have played 37.7 and 39.4 minutes per game this season, respectively. Rose has exceeded 37 minutes in his last four games, and Deng has played at least 40 minutes in each of his last three contests. And the Bulls have only played one close game since March 7.
Even though Rose is 22 years old and Deng is 25, you’d think the Bulls would want to tone down those guys’ minutes, especially when they won a string of four games all by at least 17 points.
So, if the past two weeks have been any indication, both the Bulls and Celtics will play for the No. 1 seed if victories are within striking distance — minutes be damned — until the race is decided.
KNICKS IN DISARRAY JUST IN TIME FOR CELTICS
If the state of the Knicks locker room is any indication, a victory should be within striking distance for the Celtics Monday night at Madison Square Garden. According to the New York Post, Carmelo Anthony isn’t exactly spreading Ubuntu through the Knicks locker room:
Anthony hid on the bus following Friday’s loss in Detroit without talking to the media. He almost never talks before a game but did so to make up for his blow-off after his awful 2-of-12, six-point showing.
During the loss, Anthony had bad body language, didn’t join a huddle at one juncture and yapped at Toney Douglas after not getting a low-post feed.
On top of that, Amar’e Stoudemire took a veiled shot at Anthony in the New York Daily News …
“We’ve just got to subscribe to Mike D’Antoni‘s system. It works. I’ve been a part of it for a long time. And it’s very successful.”
CELTICS SELLING OUT
First, we find out from Bloomberg.com that Red Auerbach‘s 1957, 1962, 1974, 1976 and 1981 championship rings are going up for auction from April 15-30 along with a game-worn Bob Cousy rookie jersey and a team-signed cigar humidor.
And now Dave Cowens is selling his 1973 MVP trophy this summer, according to the Boston Herald. He’ll reportedly become the first NBA MVP to auction off his trophy.