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BOSTON (CBS) – The Boston Celtics missed their chance to close out the Atlanta Hawks on Tuesday night, costing them some much-needed rest.
Sports Illustrated’s Chris Mannix joined 98.5 The Sports Hub’s Toucher & Rich on Wednesday, and said the Celtics really could have used a few days off.
“It would have benefitted them, and that’s what Boston has to be kicking themselves about today,” said Mannix. “They needed that rest. With the way the schedule shakes out they wouldn’t have played again until Saturday or Sunday. That’s four days of rest.”
The time off would have given Boston a chance to rest up their injured players, including Paul Pierce who is nursing a knee injury that made him look even older than his 35-year-old self in the closing minutes on Tuesday.
For the Celtics, their health is going to be an issue however long their postseason run lasts.
“It’s always going to be a problem. It doesn’t matter what day or week it is, it’s always an issue because they make it an issue,” Mannix said of the C’s health. “For the most part they have old bodies and old legs. Whether it’s Paul’s knee or Ray’s ankle, it’s not going to be something — even if Paul or Ray say they’re fine now — it’s not something you can stop worrying about until this season is over.”
“These injury problems are going to continue to be problems with this team all throughout the playoffs. Just the type of injuries they have, with ankles and knees, they don’t go away until you have continual rest, or in the case of Ray, offseason surgery.”
The Celtics also have to worry about Hawks’ center Al Horford, who returned in Game 4 after being sidelined since January with a pectoral tear. Horford led the Hawks with 19 points and 11 rebounds in Game 5, and will present a tough matchup for Boston the rest of the way.
“I think Horford is kind of a wildcard. He spent this last offseason working with Derrick Rose, Russell Westbrook, Kevin Love; the players that get better every year,” said Mannix. “I’m sure he got noticeably better, we just haven’t seen much of it because he’s been out of the lineup since January. Now he’s back, and we can see the improvement he made to his game.”
“He is among the top big men in the NBA, not just the Eastern Conference, especially offensively.”
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So how can the Celtics defend Horford? Mannix says it starts by getting multiple bodies on him down in the paint, and letting Josh Smith do his thing as a jump shooter.
“I think it starts with putting Garnett on someone and letting him go. That’s got to be a big part of the equation, and I’d even double Horford a lot when he gets the ball in the post,” he said. “Josh Smith, as extremely talented as this kid is, he just makes so many bonehead decisions… If you give him an opportunity to shoot from the outside, he’s going to take it. I think he is capable of playing a team into a series when he’s playing well in the paint, and shooting them out of it when he takes those perimeter jump shots. I’d let Josh Smith try and beat you from the outside.”
“It’s going to take a team effort to control a guy like Horford because he’s so talented and diverse,” said Mannix. “He plays so well off the dribble now, and he didn’t used to play like that before. He’s able to beat you in a lot of different ways now, so I’d be creative in the defenses you send his way.”
Should the Celtics be worried about Atlanta sharp-shooter Joe Johnson, who hasn’t done all that much this series? And how are things shaping up out in the Western Conference? Hear that and more with SI’s Chris Mannix!