- Chris Forsberg, ESPN Staff Writer
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BOSTON -- Boston Celtics captain Paul Pierce played 54 minutes 11 seconds during Sunday's triple-overtime triumph over the Denver Nuggets. That's a mere three seconds short of his career high (set seven years ago during a double-overtime loss to Cleveland). Kevin Garnett logged 47:03, a number he's reached only 24 times in his entire career and not since playing 51 minutes for the Timberwolves in March 2007.
If Celtics coach Doc Rivers elected to give Pierce and Garnett a night off when the team travels to Charlotte for the tail end of a back-to-back on Monday, he could be forgiven (heck, with no national TV broadcast, the league might not even make the team pay for it). As Boston prepped to board its midnight flight, Rivers was noncommittal about how he'll proceed.
"I’ll let you know after the game [Monday]," Rivers said. "I mean Paul played 54 minutes, and he’s the guy that I’m most concerned with to be honest. And they just played so hard. ... If we have to rest guys, play them shorter minutes tomorrow -- the only way I can do it is by my eyes. You’ll never know how guys feel until [Monday]."
Pierce smiled when asked after Sunday's game if he was tired.
"Yeah, I'm tired after every game," he said. Pressed on if he was more tired than usual, Pierce added, "Well, my adrenaline is still coming down. I'm sure I'll feel it later."
Garnett playfully joked about his whopping minute total, even after catching a brief breather at the start of the second overtime.
"I told Doc I wasn't build for this s--- and I don't know what the hell he thought," Garnett quipped. "But I probably won't even play [Monday] night. I'm lying. I'm out here grinding. It's what it is. Heart of a champion. What can I say?"
If nothing else, the Celtics almost certainly will lean heavier on their younger legs on Monday in Charlotte. The team has to hope the likes of Avery Bradley (45:44 vs. Denver) and Jeff Green (41:38) can bounce back to take some of the pressure off the 35+ club of Garnett, Pierce and Jason Terry (42:38).
Boston's depth (and youthfulness) has eroded with the loss of Rajon Rondo and rookie Jared Sullinger. But given the season struggles of the Bobcats, Boston figures to look to a bench that has risen to the challenge for much of this seven-game winning streak.
The Celtics are 6-6 on the second night of back-to-backs this season, but a mere 3-6 when that second game occurs on the road. Boston might be willing to sacrifice a loss -- even with a season-high seven-game winning streak in place -- after pulling out Sunday's win.
"Honestly, I’m thinking in the middle of [Sunday's] game or late in the game in the overtimes, ‘Boy, [Monday is] going to be hard,’" Rivers said. "It’s funny how a coach thinks. I’m thinking, ‘We have to somehow win this game tonight.’”
Read on for a few more postgame notes:
* OT OVERDOSE: The Celtics have played a whopping 14 overtime sessions this season, having endured nine total overtime contests (five single overtime games, three double, one triple). That's 70 minutes of extra game action, or about a 1½ games so far. An 82-game season is long enough and Boston, already played shorthanded due to injuries, absolutely has to bring down minutes and wear-and-tear as the playoffs near.
* NEVER IN DOUBT: Listen to Bradley describe the confidence the Celtics felt even as the game appeared to be slipping away in the first two extra sessions: "It happens. But with the leadership we have, we're able to keep our composure. And with the fighters that we have on this team, no matter what, we give our all and play as hard as we can and we knew we wanted to win that game. When Doc called a timeout we said, 'We're going to win this.' There was never a doubt in our mind in any overtime that we weren't going to win this game." It's one thing to say that; it's another to believe it and follow through. The Celtics earlier this season might have let a game like this get away, but this group continues to show impressive resolve and crunch-time execution during the seven-game winning streak.
* MOST SATISFYING WIN? Pierce didn't hesitate to admit that Sunday's win was extra special given the fact that Denver had been the hottest team in basketball and the way in which Boston prevailed in extra sessions. "It was a good win, man. It was hard fought, we were playing against one of the hottest teams in the league on our home court," Pierce said. "It's definitely a satisfying win when you come out, it looks bleak, especially in the overtimes. This was a great game to be a part of. It's a great win against a quality ball club. Not to say the other teams weren't quality teams that we played, but this is the type of win that can give us confidence moving forward."
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