BOSTON (CBS) – The Boston Celtics would love to get some rest with only five games remaining in the regular season, but they are focused on something else with the playoffs under two weeks away.
As it has been for most of the season, chemistry will be in focus as the Celtics host the Brooklyn Nets on Wednesday night with a new, bigger starting five that features the trio of Paul Pierce, Jeff Green and Kevin Garnett on the floor at the same time – a lineup they couldn’t roll out due to recent inflammation in Garnett’s ankle.
Now that the group is together, Pierce is hoping these last few “chemistry lessons” will go a long way when the playoffs begin.
“We haven’t been out there much as a unit, but now that Kevin is back we want to develop more chemistry. It will catch some teams off guard and alter the way they play, but I figure at this stage of the season it’s going to be hard for other teams to alter the way they play,” Pierce said Tuesday.
“It helps when you put me and Jeff out there, especially when (the opposition) has to make a decision; the smaller guy is going to have to guard one of us,” said Pierce. “Knowing that both of us are strong post-up presences and good finishers at the basket, it causes a dilemma at the defensive end for other teams. It’s definitely an advantage.”
That “advantage” will be put to the test Wednesday night against the Nets, who have a fairly large lineup of their own.
“They’re a big basketball team. (Brook) Lopez is a monster, so that’s the challenge,” head coach Doc Rivers said of the Nets. “And they’re physical, they’re tough, they’re veterans, they match us in that. So those are usually the type of games that are fun. I don’t call them chippy, I call them fun.”
Read: Celtics-Nets Preview
While Rivers doesn’t use the word chippy, Pierce is expecting Wednesday’s tilt to play out similar to the way the Celtics and Nets other three meetings this season did.
“Brooklyn is one of the better teams in the East, I expect it to be a playoff-type atmosphere,” said Pierce. “The way they’ve been playing they’re one of the top four teams in the East. Deron Williams is playing his best basketball right now. You kind of feel a chippyness between the two teams when we match up. It’s a good test for a lot of us and a lot of the new guys.”
The Nets have been a bit of a spark plug for the Celtics, with their poor performance in Novembers matchup prompting Rivers to call his team “soft.” The Celtics responded a month later by beating the Nets by 17 on Christmas Day, though that success didn’t last long with the team dropping their next three to the Clippers, Warriors, and Kings (all on the road) in embarrassing fashion.
But Pierce’s confidence in his team will never drop. They’ve proven at points this season, and in year’s past, that they know what it takes when it matters most, and fans are just waiting for them to flip that switch for the playoffs.
But switch or not, Pierce knows they’ll need that new-found chemistry to be much more consistent come the playoffs.
“Throughout the year we’ve shown the ability to beat the teams at the top. The only main concern is maintaining that level of play for a consistent amount of games,” he said. “We’ve been up, we’ve been down; we’ve won six, we’ve lost four. Hopefully we can hit our stride this last week head into the playoffs. If so, I like our chances against anybody in the East.”