Starters are on Track After Week of No Games

WALTHAM, Mass. – Warm up the engines, starters. It’s time to get back into the action.

Boston’s starting five hasn’t seen any live action as a group in nearly a week; the last time it played together in a game was Oct. 6 against Charlotte. They will return to the court Thursday night when they take on the Nets in Brooklyn.

That week-long streak of no action seemed to be an intentional one created by Brad Stevens. Stevens gave Isaiah Thomas, Avery Bradley, Al Horford and Amir Johnson the game off Saturday afternoon, while Jae Crowder logged just 12 minutes of playing time. Boston also had Sunday off from practice, essentially giving the starting unit the entire weekend off before a three-day stretch of practices during the opening stages of this week.

“It’s been good, just to be able to get a couple of days off on Saturday and Sunday as well, getting your body treated on and just remaining healthy,” Isaiah Thomas said.

Added Amir Johnson, “Just get some rest. Definitely put in some more work in practice, and the main thing is just rest.”

The starters have had plenty of it, and that fact appears to be building some momentum behind their play behind closed doors. All reports Tuesday afternoon indicated that the group has looked much better during practice this week than it had during the previous two weeks of training camp.

“I think they’ve looked really good the last couple days of practice,” said rookie Jaylen Brown, who has faced off against the starters each day of practice this season. “[The second unit] had been beating them a little bit in practice earlier in the preseason, but I think these last couple of days they’ve really locked in and they’re starting to mesh and it’s a lot more competitive.”

Brown then added, “When they get things going, they’re hard to stop.”

Hearing of those comments elicited a smile on Thomas’ face before the All-Star point guard explained why the starters are now downing the second unit.

“Things are starting to calm down and guys are just taking the shots that are there,” said Thomas. “I think early on guys were trying to make each other too happy, passing up shots that they had to try to get better ones, which kind of backfired on us early on. But we’re just playing unselfish, we’re playing together and we’re getting more comfortable with one another.”

Reading between the lines, it feels as if things are unfolding for the starters in the manner that Stevens had likely hoped and planned for. He gave the group two days of rest and the starters were then able to transfer their fresh bodies into three productive days of practice. Now they’ll be able to transfer their three productive days of practice into their final four preseason games, which will all be played over the next seven days, beginning Thursday night.

That sounds like a perfect recipe for the Celtics and their starters. It’s time for them to get back into the action, and it sure sounds like they’re primed to make noise when they do so.

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