But they did just that, and they did it with all of their starters on the bench.
As the Celtics attempted to hang around with the Lakers, who have a history this season of blowing late advantages, head coach Ime Udoka made a head-turning move.
With 5:21 left in the game and Boston down 104-89, Udoka pulled Jayson Tatum, Al Horford and Marcus Smart. At that point, Dennis Schroder and Robert Williams III already were on the bench, meaning the Celtics played out the game with Payton Pritchard, Aaron Nesmith, Romeo Langford, Enes Freedom and either Grant Williams or Juancho Hernangomez on the floor.
Not exactly the group you expect to see out there with the game in reach, but Udoka seemed to be sending a message.
“Obviously the back-to-back played into it, but that unit, there was no spark there,” Udoka told reporters after the game, via CLNS Media. “It’s just a feel that there wasn’t much there offensively, defensively, all night that was the case. It wasn’t like we were scoring great with that group anyway, so we wanted a spark there.”
A Pritchard 3-pointer with 1:39 left pulled the Celtics within 10, but the Lakers buttoned things up at that point after a timeout and cruised to victory.
The Celtics next face the Los Angeles Clippers at 10:30 p.m. ET on Wednesday.