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Doing Time: the cost of Game 3′s victory

05.05.12 at 2:02 pm ET
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Kevin Garnett and Paul Pierce have played major minutes in the Celtics' first round series with Atlanta. (AP)

Doc Rivers knows he has a veteran squad. He knows managing his team’s minutes is a priority night-in and night-out. But he also knows he is best suited to play a short seven-man rotation. Limiting minutes becomes difficult when relying on so few players, especially as playoff games hang in the balance.

Weighing the value of rest versus victories is a complicated issue during the regular season, but when an opening to secure a playoff win appeared in Game 3 Friday night, Rivers rolled the dice.

“Sometimes, honestly, as a coach you take a gamble, ” Rivers said. “You think maybe we can get this, put this away, and get guys out.”

The coach’s gamble backfired and minutes have gone from a concern to a dilemma. Through the first two games of the series in Atlanta, Paul Pierce was averaging 42 minutes and Kevin Garnett logged 4o minutes in each contest as well. Ray Allen entered Game 3 having not seen action in a competitive game in 24 days due to an ankle injury, which will require surgery this offseason.

On Friday, Pierce played 47, Garnett logged 42 and Allen checked in with a whopping 36 minutes. Rivers is giving is team Saturday off, “Because they’re exhausted,” he said. “And I don’t want Ray in the gym because he would do something. He would shoot or something. So, that’s unusual for us in the playoffs to take a day off, but they need one.”

Leading by as many as 11 points in the fourth quarter and up 80-72 with less than three minutes remaining, the Celtics let the Hawks back in the game.

“I thought we got into the habit of milking the clock,” Rivers said. “And you just can’t do that. You can do that when the other team has two bigs, but when the other team has five guards on the floor, you absolutely can’t do that. And we did that.

The Celtics may have made Friday night’s game harder than it needed to be, but Hawks coach Larry Drew had to deal with the same problem as Rivers. Atlanta was without Josh Smith on Friday night, and have also been missing Zaza Pachulia and Al Horford throughout the whole series.

“We played a lot of minutes – our starters – but they did as well,” Rajon Rondo said. “So, it’s a mental effort. You can’t get tired. Down the stretch, you have to execute offensively and defensively. I think we did a pretty good job of that tonight, even though we struggled to score the last two minutes of the fourth quarter.”

Those struggles led to overtime and an extra five minutes of basketball.

“Playoffs are hard,” Pierce said. “Sometimes coaches are going to ask a lot from you. I went the whole distance again today in the second half, but it proved worth it. We were able to get the win and that’s all that matters.”

Pierce is right, results are all that matter, but the Celtics would be better-served to hit on Rivers’ gambles rather then bust.

Read More: 2012 Playoffs, Doc Rivers, Kevin Garnett, Paul Pierce Print  |  Email  |  Bark It Up!  |  Digg It
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