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Celtics Report Card: Resting the Starters (I Guess)

With home court still on the line, Doc Rivers played Marquis Daniels, Ryan Hollins, and Keyon Dooling for extended minutes against Joe Johnson and the Atlanta Hawks. For some reason. (Yahoo Sports/AP Photo/John Amis)

The Boston Celtics have locked up the fourth seed in the Eastern Conference playoffs. But because NBA playoff rules for some reason give the #5 seed home-court for the first round if they have a better record, the Celtics may have to start on the road.

That makes sense, except that it completely obsoletes the notion of seeding, and mathematics in general. This, apparently, explains the asterisk in Numbers Never* Lie.

With home-court advantage against the Atlanta Hawks still available, I’d have liked the Celtics to prevail against them Friday night. But I can’t really penalize a team for losing while sitting its four best players, nor can I find it in myself to dock points for losing to the New York Knicks, either: Steve Novak and J.R. Smith went 15-for-20 on three-pointers, and the Celtics still only lost by eight.

Essentially, I’m just following the Celtics’ lead and resting my starters until the playoffs. But let’s roll the tape anyway and see what nuggets of wisdom we can find:

Starting Backcourt: A-

Rajon Rondo only played in one game this week after crashing to the floor trying to rebound against the Knicks. But I refuse to dignify Sasha Pavlovic by addressing him in the “Starting Backcourt” section, so instead I’ll mention Rondo’s double-digit assists against the Knicks contrast with his inability to score against the undead Mike Bibby, whom Rondo could’ve easily annihilated with a barrage of lay-ups.

Seventeen, 23, 28. Those are the three scoring totals this past week for Avery Bradley, the last coming as the primary (read: only) scoring option against the Hawks. Dare I say this could be the Celtics’ starting backcourt that I grade for the next few years?

Starting Frontcourt: B

Don’t hurt ‘em, Paul Pierce! The Truth exploded for 43 points at Madison Square Garden, single-handedly dragging the Celtics back into that game. Then, with Rondo out against the Orlando Magic, Pierce tallied a career-high 14 assists to lead the Celtics offense, staving off a late Magic comeback with a vintage step-back jumper from the top of the key. In two games, he went 28-of-30 from the charity stripe. Yow-zah. Hopefully Pierce stays that aggressive for the playoffs.

Brandon Bass caved just when the Celtics needed him to step up most. After solid 15- and 21-point performances, Bass stank up the joint in Atlanta, shooting 4-of-15 as essentially the only other possible source of scoring for the Celtics. He also inexcusably let Glen Davis – whom he’ll be forever linked=to after they were traded for one another – notch 27 points on 75 percent (!) shooting. His nickname is “Big Baby,” Brandon Bass. Come on.

Nothing surprising here, just more solid play from Kevin Garnett. A 20-5-3 against the Knicks (although he did surrender 20 points to Tyson Chandler on one two-handed flush after another), and a 15-9 versus the Magic.

Bench Backcourt: C

While the removal of Pavlovic’s warm-up clothes just continues to make me sad (and not just sexually), I can’t decide which stat line from Atlanta is more bewildering: Keyon Dooling’s 17 point outburst on 7-of-10 shooting as a spot-starter, or Marquis Daniels’s 12 points, eight boards, three assists, and four steals? So many questions left unanswered, namely “what,” “why,” and above all, “how.”

In Dooling’s defense, at least he was the one who accounted for all two of the Celtics’ bench points in New York.

Bench Frontcourt: C+

Greg Stiemsma sandwiched one decent game against Orlando between getting steamrolled in New York and getting benched in favor of Ryan Hollins in the ATL. Hollins managed to score eight points and secure five rebounds in his first extended action for Boston, for probably (hopefully?) the first and last time.

Coaching: B

I’m still not sure why Doc Rivers decided to rest Pierce and Garnett against Atlanta with home court on the line and no back-to-back in sight. But they’re still seeded fourth and they’re only playing the Hawks in Round 1, so far be it from me to question a viable Coach of the Year candidate.

Especially since he sent out a gag-reflex-inducing lineup (Bradley, Dooling, Pavlovic, Bass, and Stiemsma) to protest that a higher seed absurdly isn’t guaranteed home court.

About Nick Bohlen - @ndbohlen

Nick is an editor and regular contributor for the Patriots, Celtics, and Red Sox sections of SoB. (Despite growing up in Vermont, just a short drive from Canada, hockey never really caught on with him.) Follow him on twitter: @ndbohlen

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