Print and Go Back ESPNBoston [Print without images]

Saturday, November 14, 2009
Celtics might have to battle fatigue

By Chris Forsberg

Celtics coach Doc Rivers runs down the schedule checklist each summer when the NBA releases its team-by-team calendar.

First, a quick glance at opening night ("[Expletive], Cleveland"), then a search for what he calls 4-and-5's (four games in five nights; it only happens once this season) and finally, a sweep for 8-and-7's.

What's that, exactly?

"An 8 o'clock game the first night, then a 7 o'clock [game] the next day … I hate those 8-and-7's," Rivers explained. "It's tough; 8 usually means it's a [national] TV game and that means a longer game, then you get on the plane, go wherever you have to go and play at 7 the next night, less than 24 hours later. With a long flight [to Indianapolis], this is a tough one."

This is the only true 8-and-7 the Celtics have this season, though there are a couple of 8-and-7:30's. What makes this one particularly challenging is the fact that Saturday's game is in Indiana, a rather lengthy flight the Celtics made in the overnight hours after Friday's loss to the Atlanta Hawks.

The Celtics played a back-to-back last Friday and Saturday, but Friday's loss to Phoenix was not nationally televised and the road trip only took them to New Jersey on Saturday. Even so, the Celtics dragged through the final contest of an 8-games-in-12-days stretch.

A similar situation occurred at the beginning of last season. The Celtics defeated Chicago at home on Halloween, then flew to Indiana for a game the next night. The result? The Pacers routed Boston 95-79.

"We had a sleep-deprivation [doctor] look at the schedule last year, and I told him, 'Show me one game you think would be difficult to win,'" Rivers said. "He pointed at the Indiana game and said, 'I don't know if you won or not' -- and he's telling the truth because he's wearing that bow tie and doesn't know anything about basketball -- and he said, 'but I guarantee you didn't play well.' And he was right."

The Celtics are doing their best to combat the crazy NBA schedule this season. Rivers eliminated morning shootarounds on game days, and the team instead goes through a short walkthrough at the arena a few hours before tipoff.

There's typically no practice after back-to-back games, and most off-day practices don't begin until noon or 1 p.m. The team has stressed "Celtics Time," a daily moratorium on activity from 3-11 a.m.

Rivers noted he hoped a deeper bench would help keep bodies fresh Friday night, but a tight game against the Hawks forced the Celtics to utilize a nine-man rotation, and starters played lengthy minutes.

It's a potential recipe for disaster Saturday in Indiana, but the Green know that's beyond their control.

We gotta win the first one, you can't worry about the second one until you win that first one," said Rivers before the Celtics lost to the Hawks.

Boston plays 18 back-to-back contests this year and, somewhat surprisingly, none are back-to-back games at the Garden. The Celtics play back-to-back road contests six times, but all the others feature at least one home game and one on the road.

The natural inclination would be that the Celtics -- particularly given the advanced ages of their Big Three -- would struggle more on the second nights of back-to-backs. But this season, Boston is 2-2 in the first game and 3-0 in the second.

The Celtics actually might enjoy a game Saturday, given a chance to get back in the win column after Friday's loss. Despite last November's rout in Indiana, the Celtics defeated the Pacers in three other meetings.

"It's never difficult [to regroup]," Ray Allen said after Friday's loss. "It's the job that we do. It's time to lick our wounds and get on the plane, get some rest, and get ready to get [the Pacers on Saturday]."

One player that probably won't need an extra Red Bull to get up for Saturday's game: Marquis Daniels, who played for the Pacers from 2006-09.

Chris Forsberg is a roving reporter for Follow him on Twitter.