The Celtics are days away from beginning the 21st NBA Finals in franchise history, and rest assured, they'll be ready to go when the series tips off. The C's wrapped up the Eastern Conference title on Friday night, beating the Magic 96-84, and Game 1 of the NBA Finals isn't until this coming Thursday in L.A.
That's a six-day layoff, and the Celtics are taking it easy.
A day off Saturday. Another one Sunday. A quick practice in Waltham, Mass., on Monday before hitting the runway for a cross-country flight. A practice at UCLA on Tuesday morning, then media day at the Staples Center on Wednesday. Before you know it, it'll be game time.
The Celtics have nearly a week between games, and they're not filling it with a whole lot of basketball activity.
"I'm glad we're going to get done and get some rest," coach Doc Rivers said Friday night after his team wrapped up the East. "That may be the most important thing going into the next series."
The usual joke from Doc is that obviously the Celtics need rest — they're old. That's something that the media in Boston reminds him about every day. But all of sudden, they've got bigger problems than just age. The injuries are piling up: a concussion for Glen Davis, an even worse one for Marquis Daniels, painful back spasms for Rasheed Wallace, a twisted ankle for Tony Allen, muscle spasms for Rajon Rondo. And for the captain, Paul Pierce, a series of shoulder stingers this season is only the tip of the iceberg. He's got plenty of reasons to take some time off.
"I know I need it," Pierce said of the rest. "I've got a couple injuries that I kind of want to cure up over the last couple of days. Just minor stuff like foot, back, stuff like that. But nothing major for me, you know. Running into Dwight Howard really doesn't help your body none, going through a series like this. When you're constantly going over screens that he's setting, it wears on you."
Said Allen, who's played through his ankle pain over the course of the past week: "It definitely will help me. Guys are going to take advantage of the rest. But still get in, get their shots, and do what we've been doing to prepare for the next series."
The Celtics are looking forward to getting prepared. There's a daunting challenge ahead in the Lakers, defending NBA champions, and the Celtics are keenly aware of the hard work it will take to win this thing.
But all season long, the Celtics' strategy has been forgoing hard work in the present, instead keeping energy bottled up for the future. The trick is snapping out of that mind-set now.
"All of us at some point were up and down, so we thought about rest more than anything," Ray Allen explained. "Like, 'Let's get ready for the playoffs.' As much as we wanted to win during the regular season, you could see everybody's focus was taking care of their bodies. Even if we dropped a game, you knew the next day in the practice facility, if you needed treatment, guys were in there getting treatment. If you had to hit the weight room to get your body strong, guys were in there doing that. If we had days off, guys were staying home, getting their rest."
That's the way it's been all year for the Celtics. They didn't kill themselves over every single game — they played it safe. They looked ahead. They kept the big picture in mind.
But now the big picture is here.
To get four more wins, the Celtics will have to give everything they've got left.
They'd better enjoy this rest while they still can.
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