The general consensus among pundits on whether the Celtics should aim for the third of fourth seed in the Eastern Conference playoffs seems to tip in favor of the higher seed, but coach Doc Rivers offered a bit of a contrarian view while discussing the matter with reporters Tuesday after practice.
As he demonstrates, Doc Rivers is fine with the fourth seed in the playoffs.Asked if he's worried about the playoff position, Rivers smiled and noted, "Not as much as everyone else. I guess you want to avoid Cleveland, that's what everyone is saying. But if you want to win the title, you have to play them at some point. You can make the case that it's better earlier, because you're fresher, stronger. If we're so old -- as everyone says -- maybe playing them in the second round is better. I just don't give it a lot of thought. At the end of the day, it will play itself out. I'm not going to worry about it."
With the Cavaliers on the cusp of securing the top seed in the Eastern Conference, they project to meet the fourth seed in the second round, should higher seeds take care of business. Rivers' theory holds a measure of merit, but only assuming both teams expend similar amounts of energy in the opening-round series. Let's say the Celtics end up at the fourth seed and endure a seven-game series against the upstart Bucks, while the Cavaliers sweep a hapless eighth seed, then the "stronger, fresher" argument is shot.
The line of thought for those that desire the No. 3 seed is that the Celtics wouldn't see the Cavaliers until the Eastern Conference Finals, even if it meant going through the No. 2 seed (Orlando) in the event that, again, top seeds take care of business in the opening round. Under that scenario, crystal-ballers note that Cleveland would likely expend more energy against the athletic Hawks in the second round, maybe depleting them a bit before the conference championship.
You can see all the chatter is enough to make River dizzy. As Rasheed Wallace noted after Sunday's loss to the Spurs, the Celtics are simply focused on staying (or getting) healthy and playing the best brand of basketball they can as the second season arrives.
"It'd be nice to win [the final nine games], but I'd rather be healthy and in a rhythm," said Rivers, noting that, without health, it won't matter what seed the Celtics end up with.
Ray Allen likewise seemed disinterested in sweating the No. 3/4 debate, reiterating that he hasn't even looked at the standings since a first-and-only glance during a visit to Milwaukee earlier this month, and even then it was just to check out how his old team was doing.
"I haven't looked since then," said Allen. "If we take care of business, we'll be where we deserve to be."