Every morning, we compile the links of the day and dump them here… highlighting the big storyline. Because there's nothing quite as satisfying as a good morning dump.
Rivers is most concerned with the minutes of the Big Four – Rajon Rondo, Paul Pierce, Kevin Garnett and Ray Allen (ankle) who returned to the lineup after nearly a month off.
Rondo (45.6), Pierce (44.2) and Garnett (40.4) are all averaging more than 40 minutes per game, something that you rarely see after this many playoff games. And Ray Allen, in his first game in nearly a month, returned to play 37 minutes.
Rivers acknowledges that he's not thrilled with the idea that his core guys are logging so many minutes. All are certainly worth being concerned about, but Garnett's playing time is most disturbing.
Not much you can do about minutes at this point. Without every minute of those minutes, the Celtics don't lead the series 2-1.
The Big 4 played 19 consecutives minutes at the end of Game 3. Doc Rivers was hoping the line-up would stretch the lead from 11 to 20+, allowing for garbage time rest. It never happened. I don't have a problem with the strategy. There's a day between each of the next two games (5, 6) and then two days off from Games 6 to 7.
Minutes won't matter… if the Celtics can finish off the Hawks in 5 (highly unlikely) or 6 games. If they can grab a few days rest before the next series (let's hope Chicago has enough to drag that series to 7), they'll be fine. But, as they say, let's not put the cart before the horse.
On Page 2, Josh Smith is playing tonight, unless he falls down an escalator.
“If I fall down the escalator and re-injure something,” Smith said Saturday.
“I’m probably going to play regardless how [the knee] feels because I know the importance of this game,” Smith said. “We can do special things because we are a deep team, and very talented. Any other team with three guys who play major minutes are out, they tend to struggle. But we was right there almost about to win.
“With my help, it should help us to get over the hump [Sunday].”
Smith has been great in this series; averaging 19 points and 15 rebounds in Games 1 and 2. While the Hawks will gladly take him at even 75%, I wonder if a tender knee will keep him on the perimeter. A jump-shot happy Josh Smith is good for the Celtics.
The rest of the links:
Globe – Fleeting star returns for McGrady | Pietrus stepping up defense | Ugly win not a concern for Pierce | CSNNE – Preparation pays dividends for Pietrus | Herald – Pietrus advises concussion care | Inquiring minds want decision from Celtics | Pietrus prioritizes D |
AP Photo/Charles Krupa