MIAMI -- While the Boston Celtics have posted surprisingly better numbers on quicker turnarounds this season, much will be made leading up to Monday's Game 1 of the Eastern Conference finals about the perceived advantage the well-rested Miami Heat will possess.
The Celtics needed seven games before ousting the Philadelphia 76ers on Saturday night and used their lone off day to trek to South Beach on Sunday. The Heat, meanwhile, have been home and idle since dispatching the Indiana Pacers in six games on Thursday night.
General logic suggests that Boston's veteran legs will be weary, while the younger and more athletic Heat will be itching to turn this thing into a track meet. If that's true, the Celtics don't seem overly concerned about it, particularly after having endured the every-other-day schedule for much of this postseason.
"You know it's a quick turnaround, but I kind of like it that way," Celtics captain Paul Pierce said. "It keeps us in a rhythm; it keeps us playing. We're an older team so we don't want to sit around for too long. We like the fact that we usually go right into it. We have [Sunday] off, we'll probably watch some film, go over scouting report, shoot around on Monday, and that's it."
Pierce nailed the game plan. The Celtics caught a late-morning flight to South Beach and were scheduled to stay off the court. As Celtics coach Doc Rivers noted, "The way we look at it with this team is, [Sunday's] off and most of Monday is off, and then we play. We just don't have the bodies, we don't have the legs to do anything else."
But the Celtics aren't sitting here feeling bad for themselves.
"I love where we're at," Rivers said. "I told them after [Game 7 against Philadelphia], 'This is exactly where we thought we would be [in the conference finals] and we're going to Miami.'"
Despite losing Avery Bradley to season-ending shoulder surgery last week, the Celtics are about as healthy as they are going to be. Ray Allen's balky right ankle flared at times during Saturday's Game 7 triumph, but he has been able to bounce back on short rest throughout the postseason.
As Rivers has often noted, guys like Allen and Pierce (sprained left MCL) are not going to get better until they get extended rest this summer. So there's no sense sitting around sweating about an immediate dive into the next round.
Boston's veteran players wouldn't bemoan the schedule.
"I prefer [the quick turnaround] myself," Allen said. "We get back to business. We have a day to rest and we're out there playing. Everybody's bodies, their body is going to be what it's going to be. You're going to be tired or you're going to be fatigued, whatever it is. We have to continue to take the rhythm that we have, and now we have to change it and reconfigure how we think defensively and what we need to run offensively, so the series changes. We don't have a lot of time, but we have veteran players here who know how to adjust to a new series."
Echoed Kevin Garnett: "It's what it is, man. We don't have any other options, and we're not going to use that as an excuse. We played this team before. If you've been watching basketball and watching the series, you know how they've been playing. I think [Dwyane] Wade and LeBron [James] are putting up, like, 65, 70 points collectively. We've definitely got to slow that down. We have some things that we want to do, and we're prepared for that, so it's what it is. These are the cards that we are dealt, and we're going to play them."
Being dealt in for the conference finals is good enough for Boston. Some would say they're playing with house money by simply getting to this point (the Celtics are only the fourth team in NBA history to reach the conference finals after being under .500 at the All-Star break). Few expected the fourth-seeded Celtics to still be standing as we prep for June basketball.
But given their championship pedigree, the Celtics are not content to just be here. They are eager to make the most of it, and that starts Monday.
And it's not like this team doesn't have any young legs.
"[The quick turnaround is] cool for me -- I'm 27," starting forward Brandon Bass joked. "I'm ready to go. For our older players, I think that we have gotten rest and they're in a good rhythm by not being able to rest for two or three days. I think it's great for us."
Rivers has often reminded his team that this is a no-excuse season. Despite all the adversity that the Celtics have encountered, he's never let them sit around feeling bad for themselves.
He's not going to let them do it now with only four teams left playing basketball.
"We'll be ready on Monday," he said. "We've got the long flight. As a staff, the good thing about the three-hour flight is three hours of film for us. So we can look at that. I've already packed, so I can watch film [Saturday night]. We'll be ready.
"It's going to be a tough turnaround but listen, we're not an excuse team. We'll be ready on Monday."