There’s lottery tanking, and then there’s the playoffs kind, when you know you’re not going to finish in a better position than you’re already in so you rest players as much as possible. The Boston Celtics aren’t going to finish above the 7th spot in the Eastern Conference, so Doc Rivers prefers battling his battles without Paul Pierce and Kevin Garnett, not leaving himself much of a chance.
Paul Pierce is what keeps this team together, still heading into the playoffs, despite all the season ending injury the team has dealt with in 2013. Rivers looks at his roster and his two tired and possibly injured veterans and only stars left, and knows there is no hope without them, especially not without Pierce. Trying to make it into the sixth or fifth place, outgunning the Bulls or the Hawks, might take too much of them and leave nothing left in the tank in the playoffs.
So with a shorthanded lineup, the Boston Celtics helped Nikola Pekovic, playing for his next contract in the NBA, look like an All-Star center, finishing with 29 points on 11-11 from the line, scoring 22 points in the first half alone. Ricky Rubio, obviously, enjoyed the shell-shocked Celtics defense, finishing with 9 points and 10 assists, while Andrei Kirilenko (17 points) and Dante Cunnigham (19 points) also enjoyed a lot more freedom than you expect from the C’s in a 110-100 win, that wasn’t as close as the minimal double-digit margin suggests.
And this is who the Celtics will have to head in the playoffs with, without much hope: Paul Pierce, Kevin Garnett, Jason Terry, Jeff Green and Avery Bradley, who doesn’t add much offensively, while the previous four, excluding Pierce, aren’t exactly the symbols of offensive consistency. Brandon Bass, Chris Wilcox, Courtney Lee and Jordan Crawford become much more important than they should be, while even Shavlik Randolph might get a few minutes (21 against Minnesota) if things keep looking like this. Doesn’t look well for the near or the more distant future.