Hoping rest is restorative
Rivers gives his tired team the weekend off
ATLANTA - Continuing with his “rest is best’’ theme, Celtics coach Doc Rivers resisted the temptation to practice this weekend and instead gave his banged-up team the weekend off.
A lack of practice time has been a theme all season for every NBA team. It has been cited as a primary reason for ragged play, and the Celtics haven’t conducted an organized, legitimate practice since April 3 in Waltham.
Because of the recent blitz of games - 11 in 15 days - and with a veteran team that needs days off, Rivers has used morning shootarounds for instruction.
And if Rivers were considering a weekend practice, a quick look around the locker room after Friday’s 97-92 loss to the Hawks would be enough to dissuade him.
Greg Stiemsma played fewer than 10 minutes Friday because of plantar fasciitis in his left foot and a bone bruise in his right foot. Brandon Bass played on fumes, having endured the three-games-in-three-nights stretch and then a rugged game against Carmelo Anthony in New York.
Bass looked exhausted and overwhelmed at times trying to score against Atlanta’s 6-foot-9-inch Josh Smith. He finished 4 for 15 shooting and looked as if he needed a break.
Rajon Rondo, Ray Allen, and Mickael Pietrus are nursing nagging injuries that require rest. So a Saturday or Sunday practice likely would have been nothing more than an organized treatment session.
“You’ve got to take advantage,’’ said Rivers. “We play [Friday] and don’t play again until Tuesday. That gives our guys a chance to recover from that stretch and only play one game. That’s good.’’
By not playing Paul Pierce and Kevin Garnett - who made the trip to Atlanta but did not sit on the bench - Rivers made it clear that rest was a bigger priority than home-court advantage. Atlanta’s win extended its lead over the Celtics to 1 1/2 games with two to play.
“That’s going to be huge for all of us,’’ Stiemsma said of the break. “A couple of days off just to let our bodies rest and get our minds set for what we have to do.
“I think we’re at the point where we feel like we can go into any building and win as long as we’re healthy, that’s No. 1. If we can get guys healthy, get our bodies right, we feel as comfortable going on the road and we feel real confident at home.
“So if we can come steal one on the road and head back home with some momentum, we’ll be all right.’’
Perhaps it was the presence of newly acquired Sean Williams, but Ryan Hollins turned in his best game of the season Friday, scoring 8 points with 5 rebounds in 30 minutes. Hollins had been stuck on the bench because of some questionable offensive fouls and the play of Stiemsma, but with Stiemsma’s injury, he capitalized on his opportunity.
“It gave us comfort,’’ Rivers said. “Because he played so well and played so hard, that’s great for us. He played more minutes and he played well, and that’s always good.
“But listen, if that [Williams’s presence] is part of it, that’s good, too. If you’re not playing and a new guy comes in and you think he’s going to take your minutes, then you should play harder.
“It’s a man’s game. JaJuan [Johnson] didn’t have a great game [2 for 7, 4 points] and he’s feeling bad about himself, and I said, ‘JaJuan, I want to give you a hug, but at the end of the day, you’ve got to be ready for Tuesday. You just have to build your mind back.’ ’’
Hollins said his confidence has not wavered. Rivers said he can potentially be an impact defensive center in the NBA but requires work and experience.
“I was prepared to play,’’ said Hollins. “Six years in, I’m pretty much ready for anything. I wanted to come out and kind of get playoff-ready to show Coach some things I can do and get myself ready to play.
“When I am playing with the Big Four out there, my game is going to be trapping, rebounding, defending. I am not going to get [offensive touches], I understand that. But the little things that don’t show up [in the box score] I can control.’’
Rivers said he is not concerned about his 13-man playoff roster since it can be changed from game to game. It would appear that Williams, Marquis Daniels, E’Twaun Moore, and Johnson would be candidates for the inactive list during the postseason . . . Rivers said he won’t rest his starters completely in the final two games against Miami and Milwaukee. Pierce and Garnett are expected to return Tuesday against the Heat . . . Rivers joked with Atlanta assistant Lester Conner after Friday’s loss because he called a play that Conner had just implemented for the Hawks that was successful. After a timeout, Bass canned a 20-foot jumper off a screen - the identical play the Hawks ran in their previous possession.