But on Sunday night, Rivers was able to cut down on those minutes significantly as the Celtics blew out the Hawks, cruising to a 101-79 victory.
Because the Celtics jumped out to an early lead and expanded it to 23 points by halftime, Rivers could manage the players’ time. Only Brandon Bass and Rajon Rondo exceeded 30 minutes on the court. Paul Pierce scored his 24 points in just under 17 minutes while Ray Allen played just 19 and Kevin Garnett logged 27.
“We overplayed them the last game, and gave them the day off, and they came out with this effort,” Rivers said after Sunday’s win.
Once the game’s outcome was well in hand, Boston turned to the bench to finish off the win. Marquis Daniels and Keyon Dooling took much of the load, keeping the starters fresh for the rest of the series and preventing further injury.
Pierce suffered a knee injury during Sunday’s shootaround and re-injured his knee during the game. But since the Celtics had built such a large lead, Pierce was able to stay on the bench and receive treatment.
For a veteran team like the Celtics, the ability to rest the stars may pay dividends down the road.
“I think it does [pay dividends],” Rivers said. “They would probably say, ‘Well, I’d rather play 30 minutes,’ because they’re rhythmic — they like playing. But I think over the long run, you have to be right. If you can get two or three of these type of games, then it has to help.”