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Celtics Coach Brad Stevens' position heading into the playoffs is a tough one, but his strategy for the remaining regular-season games is simple. Rest the active players if they require it, but hopefully get the big-minutes guys together for a game or two prior to the start of the first round.

The very earliest Marcus Smart can return from thumb surgery is roughly April 22 and that is pushing it. He may need an additional week or two to avoid further injury. The earliest scenario means Smart gets into action for round one, but there is a good chance he misses the early going.


Kyrie Irving, recovering from minor knee surgery, is looking at a possible return between April 15 and May 5. He could play all of the first round or none of it.

Right now Boston would take on Washington in round one, but that could change. Miami and Milwaukee could take over that 7th slot and face the Celtics. There seems to be a feeling around the League that Boston's greatly-depleted ranks can be easily conquered. I don't share that view.

With a limited crew. Stevens strategy is a good one. Some of the Celtics may have to play big minutes in the first round of the Eastern Conference Playoffs, and they need to be healthy and rested. This will be a good test for the Boston youngsters, namely Jaylen Brown, Jayson Tatum and Terry Rozier. Al Horford's production and guidance will be sorely needed.

You won't see much of it, but expect a little bit of experimentation by Brad in the first round. He may have no choice. But I believe he already has a series of plans in place for the healthy guys and will await the return of the wounded ones.

Follow Tom at @TomLaneHC

Photo via Harry How/Getty Images

Tom Lane 4/05/2018 12:24:00 PM Edit
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