With the playoffs right around the corner, the Boston Celtics can’t afford to limit their best players if they hope to secure the No. 3 seed in the East.
Following another tough loss to the Oklahoma City Thunder Sunday night, the Boston Celtics suddenly find themselves barely ahead of the Miami Heat for the No. 3 seed in the Eastern Conference.
Needless to say, not is not the time to rest their best players, particularly Jayson Tatum.
With health also being a factor in the team’s current slide, which includes four consecutive losses at home, Brad Stevens deciding to rest the players who are healthy sounds good on paper, but could end up costing the Celtics the No. 3 seed and a possible second-round matchup with the Milwaukee Bucks.
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To be fair, the Boston Celtics had a chance to win most of those games, but in chasing seeding, limiting the minutes of the 22-year-old Tatum is. Not ideal, especially with Kemba Walker already limited coming off an injury and Jaylen Brown out of the lineup.
In a head-scratching decision against the Utah Jazz, Stevens sat Tatum for nine minutes in the second quarter. That is when the game turned for the Celtics.
Again, load management is alright when you have your full arsenal of players, but with a bench that lacks depth in both consistency and reliability, riding your 22-year-old rising star is necessary at least until Kemba, Jaylen and Gordon Hayward are back at full strength.
Obviously, after losing that Utah game, Stevens was questioned on his decision to keep Tatum out of the game for the majority of that second quarter.
"“I’m trying to manage that appropriately with him. He’s played a lot of minutes in the last month and a half,” Stevens said, via Masslive.com. “He played the whole first which is unusual for him. Usually he comes out in three stings. But with Kemba’s minutes restriction we had to bring him out in stints, and so Tatum was forced to change with the other wings on the bench tonight.”"
After playing a season-low 33 minutes against the Jazz, Jayson Tatum did play 38 minutes in the one-point loss to the Thunder on Sunday night. In that game, he scored just 19 points while going just 8-of-22 from the field, which is far below that torturous February stint in which he put the entire NBA on notice, scoring over 30 points per game.
Now, it’s easy to understand Brad Stevens’ though process in getting his team primed and ready for a playoff run, but first the team needs to secure favorable seeding. It’s already going to be hard to catch the Toronto Raptors for the No. 2 seed, but they can’t afford to fall to that No. 4 or even No. 5 slot.
With health and bench play being two major factors going down the stretch, rest is not an option for a player who has risen to super stardom…at least not in early March with seeding still up in the air and Miami Heat team that is surging with confidence breathing right down the throat of the Boston Celtics.