Celtics

Rivers faces tough task of lowering Garnett's minutes

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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."

Blakely's takeaways: Moving on without the streak

Blakely's takeaways: Moving on without the streak

The streak is over! The streak is over!

We now return the Boston Celtics to their regularly scheduled pursuit of success without the growing pressure that comes with a historically relevant winning streak.

The 104-98 loss at Miami on Wednesday night brought an end to what had been one of the more unlikely winning streaks we’ve seen in the NBA for quite some time.

Boston reeled off 16 straight wins, many of which were the come-from-a-double-digit-deficit variety. In the end, the Celtics’ winning streak ranks as the fourth-longest in this storied franchise’s history.

“I told you, we’re not as good as the 16-game win streak,” Stevens said following the loss. “But we do have a lot of resolve.”

That resolve will surely be challenged with the Celtics taking Thanksgiving off, only to return and play three games in the next four nights beginning with Orlando on Friday, followed by a road game at Indiana on Saturday and a home date against the Detroit Pistons on Monday.

Here are five takeaways from the Boston Celtics’ 16-game winning streak.

KYRIE FOR MVP?

When the Boston Celtics traded for Kyrie Irving during the offseason, there was a sense that his presence would be a plus in some capacity, at some point. But few envisioned Irving would not only have a relatively seamless fit with the Celtics, but deliver in such a way that would catapult them to the top of the NBA standings and in doing so, establish him as one of the early front-runners for the league’s MVP award. This season, Irving is averaging a team-best 22.5 points and 5.2 assists while shooting 47 percent from the field but most important, the Celtics (16-3) have the best record in the NBA.

WANTED: BENCH SCORER

If you are a fan of good defenders, you probably love the Boston Celtics’ second unit. Terry Rozier and Marcus Smart are both ball-hawking defenders who can make some miserable times for opponents when they are on top of their game. Daniel Theis provides great energy on the glass and defensively. But the second unit needs a jolt offensively. Because as good as they can defend collectively, the Celtics have to have at least one starter on the floor most of the time because the bench doesn’t have an adequate collector of buckets that they can rely on consistently. Marcus Morris looks like an ideal choice for that role, but the left knee soreness that kept him out for eight games seems to be flaring up from time to time. Whether they address this with a trade or possibly with a player bought out, the lack of a second-unit scorer is very much an issue for this team.

BROWN EMERGES AS TWO-WAY TALENT

The plan was for Jaylen Brown to be an elite, shut-down defender this season. He has shown himself to be a good defender this season, but what has really made him stand out is the growth in his game offensively. The second-year wing has scored 20-plus points in three of Boston’s last four games. Doing that along with continuing to play good defense has him looking like one of the NBA’s promising young two-way talents.

TATUM’S GROWTH A SILVER LINING IN HAYWARD INJURY

You never want to see the Boston Celtics or any team for that matter, lose a player for the season let alone one who meant as much as Gordon Hayward to the Celtics. But if there is a silver lining in his ankle injury which is expected to keep him out all season, it is the opportunity it created for Jayson Tatum. The 19-year-old has been arguably the best player from last June’s draft class, playing major minutes with a major role for the team with the best record in the NBA. The opportunity to play around 30 minutes a game would not have been there for Tatum if Hayward didn’t get hurt. The challenge for Tatum going forward is to stay consistent, because now that teams have seen him for almost a quarter of the season, you can expect they will make some adjustments in how they defend him as well as try to attack him when he’s defending.

WE TALKIN’ ABOUT PRACTICE

During Boston’s 16 game winning streak, the Celtics played the last eight games in 16 nights. That’s a game every other night for more than two weeks. In that time, there’s little to no time for practice which has been a factor in Boston not being quite as sharp in the last few games, as they were at the start of the streak. After Thanksgiving, Boston plays three games in four nights with a pair of days off to follow before they return to action. There’s a very good chance that the Celtics will use one of those two days to practice, something this team desperately needs to clean up some of the minor mistakes that were big problems in their loss to the Heat on Wednesday.

NBC SPORTS BOSTON SCHEDULE

BOSTON SPORTS TONIGHT PODCAST: Celtics streak comes to an end

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BOSTON SPORTS TONIGHT PODCAST: Celtics streak comes to an end

0:41 - Tom Giles, Kayce Smith, and DJ Bean discuss the Celtics 16-game winning streak being snapped by the Miami Heat.

6:05 - Tom Curran and Mike Giardi talk about Tom Brady missing practice due to an Achilles injury and Randy Moss’ chances to make the Hall of Fame.

11:15 - A. Sherrod Blakely joins BST to discuss the mental and physical fatigue that the streak had on the Celtics and if there is a sense of relief that the streak is over.  

16:11 - With it being the 5th anniversary of the Butt Fumble, we compare it to other embarrassing sports moments in history.