The Boston Celtics played a tune-up game on Wednesday night, defeating the New York Knicks, their first-round opponent in the upcoming playoffs, in their final regular season game, 112-102.
Celtics coach Doc Rivers sat his four stars (Paul Pierce, Ray Allen, Kevin Garnett, Rajon Rondo) for the second straight game, giving them plenty of rest before the “real season” begins.
And for this year’s Celtics team, Sunday really is the start of the real season, and what they’ve been playing for all year to get back to.
“I think this is what our guys have been playing for all year,’’ Rivers told the Boston Globe. “You know, when you lose a Game 7 it sticks with you and that’s very difficult to get back through the regular season because the whole season you’re thinking about, ‘Gosh, we’ve got to go through 82 of these just to have a chance to get back to where were last year’ and now all that part is gone. And now we can start trying to get back to and finish the job.’’
Indeed, the Celtics still have a bad taste in their mouth from last year’s Game 7. However, just to get back there will be a tough road to hoe.
Shaquille O’Neal has missed the last six games due to tightness in his calf muscle, and will need practice time to get back up to speed. Jermaine O’Neal also missed significant time to injuries throughout the year, however has played in the last several games and will figure into the Celtics’ rotation in some form.
Jeff Green and Nenad Krstic have struggled at times to find their way in the Celtics’ system, and without a whole lot of practice time, it remains to be seen how they will be used in the rotation during the playoffs.
But for Pierce, Allen, Garnett, Rondo and Glen Davis, they just want the chance at redemption.
“There’s something about the postseason that I love, man,’’ Davis said. “You’ve got to bring your A game.’’
Here’s hoping the rest of the Celtics bring their A games as well.
For continuing coverage of Boston Celtics basketball, follow us on Twitter @chowdaheadz.