After much hand-wringing over whether the Celtics should rest or go for home-court advantage in the first round of the playoffs, the Celtics return to the TD Garden for Game 3 tied 1-1 with the Hawks and holding home-court advantage for the rest of the series, if home court holds that is.
It is funny how things work out, isn't it?
The playoffs are officially upon us, as Celtics fans have turned their attention from the draft predictions and free-agent possibilities that have dominated past mailbags. Now it is time to talk about on-court matters as the Celtics shoot for their 18th championship banner.
Also, we cannot let the Metta World Peace–James Harden incident go without one parting shot.
Q. I really think 100 percent, if the Celts are going deep in the playoffs, that they MUST play a deep bench just like the end of the season and save some minutes for the vets when it really matters. Please respond! — David Langille via Facebook
A. Well, since it is urgent, I will. Doc Rivers went to his bench by necessity in Game 2 and the results were good for the Celtics, but Paul Pierce scoring 36 points did not hurt, either. The thing to remember for those games in the final weeks of the season was that, in many cases, the Celtics backups were playing against a lot of the other teams' backups, too. Rotations shrink as individual minutes increase for stars in the playoffs, and while the Celtics' depth may serve them well in a game here and there, their stars need to carry the load.
As for saving some minutes for the veterans "when it really matters," I'm not sure what minutes in the playoffs don’t matter. A mundane 6-2 run in the middle of the second quarter may end up deciding a game, so there really is no place to give any of the veterans a breather.
Q. When will Ray Allen be back and will he be a big help to open up the rest of the court as a threat? — Tanner Seitz via Facebook
A. Allen is a relentless worker, so I would not put anything past him, but there are two huge factors working against him. For one, the nature of his injury is not one that he can improve by "working harder" or "wanting it more," which is what the announcers always say when a guy plays hurt, as though that is all it takes. Not many players play through torn ACLs or bone spurs in their ankles, for instance, because those are not injuries a person can "gut it out" through. A sprained pinkie? Sure, play through it, soldier.
The other complication, even if Allen does get back on the court, is how effective he will be. Listen, I will never be Ray Allen, but I still play pickup basketball (poorly) two to three times a week. When I go a week without playing, those first few days back I'm gasping for air like it is boot camp, and my already minimal skills stay on hiatus. Now consider Allen has been out for almost a month and has to play at a far, far higher level against playoff competition, all the while knowing his ankle could give out at any time and cause irreparable damage. Allen does not want to come back if his presence hurts the team.
My point is, Allen could return and totally stink. At least then, he and I could commiserate.
Q. The commissioner's office failed James Harden miserably, in my own humble opinion. Just looking at the replay over and over again, I can't even fathom that Artest — yes, Artest, because for all the name changes and supposed therapy he will forever be Ron Artest to me — could ever possibly hope to play for the rest of the year, let alone in the playoffs. The incident was so egregious that I was thinking his suspension should include the remainder of the year and games at the beginning of next season. Let's look realistically at what this guy did. There was no interaction, no altercation, no nothing between him and James. He cocked that elbow from left field and fired it at James, hitting him behind the head. A couple of inches here or there and James could possibly never play basketball again. — Howard Andrade, Palm Coast, Fla.
A. Sorry, Howard, for only being able to partially publish your very long yet very insightful comment/question. I am not sure I have much more to add on the Metta World Peace-James Harden incident beyond what I have already written, but this is a reminder of the mixed standard basketball has among the public at large. On one hand, basketball gets dissed for being a "non-contact" sport, yet whenever there is a fight or a hard foul, the world wants to wag its finger over the "ugly" incident. Needlessly excessive physical play on the basketball court has resulted in career-ending and even life-threatening injuries for high-flying athletes who wear no padding or protection beyond a mouth guard. It is necessary to have rules in place to keep every game from devolving into a demolition derby, and a stronger message needs to be sent when players do not follow those rules.