After playing Jordan Crawford just over 10 minutes in the Celtics' Game 1 loss of their first-round playoff series with the New York Knicks, head coach Doc Rivers vowed to give him more time in Game 2, and did so, as Crawford logged 25:15 of floor time in Boston's 87-71 loss on Tuesday.
But the increase in time for Crawford meant fewer minutes for Courtney Lee, who played over 20 minutes in Game 1, but just four minutes in Game 2, checking in late in the fourth quarter when the game was already decided.
Rivers was asked Wednesday about his preference of Crawford over Lee, and he said he simply thinks Crawford is playing better than Lee right now.
"Yeah, it's not that deep," Rivers said. "I just think right now (Crawford is) is (playing better) and I think offensively he gives you a better shot at it. Courtney, defensively, is better, so it really depends on -- with us, because of the injuries we have at the guard spots, it really depends on the matchups for us, whether Jordan, in certain spots, or Courtney, will play. And that's just the way it's going to be."
Lee had been a part of Rivers' rotation for virtually all of the regular season, but he suffered a left ankle sprain late in March and missed three consecutive games. Rivers noted that during Lee's brief absence and in the games he spent trying to re-establish a rhythm, Jeff Green and Crawford both played well and earned greater consideration for postseason minutes.
Following Tuesday's loss, Lee downplayed the rotation talk, saying that he was frustrated only because the team lost, and not because he suffered a dip in minutes.
"Because we lost (my frustration level is) high," Lee said. "But, because of the rotation, that doesn't bother me. If we had won, it'd have been a good thing. But, it doesn't bother me at all. Like I said, because we lost everybody's frustration level is up."
Rivers said he discussed playing time with Lee, telling him "there's a competition for minutes," and reiterated that everyone needs to be ready to play when their name is called, regardless of how long they might be on the floor.
"In the playoffs, you've got to be ready when you're ready and when you're called," Rivers said. "You can't have any excuses or anything like that. Every team shortens the bench, guys play more minutes, some guys play less. The starters play more, everybody else plays less. You've just got to be bought into the team and if you get called for a minute you have to be ready, or 20 minutes you have to be ready. That's what winning teams do."
Rivers acknowledged Lee's advantage over Crawford on defense, and, because of that, it's still possible Lee could see a renewed uptick in minutes during certain points of this series. And that's what Lee is focusing on, noting after Tuesday's loss that he'll remain ready in the event Rivers does decide to utilize him again.
"You've just got to be ready if he does call your name," Lee said. "That's how I go into every game. That's how I'm going to approach the next one."