Celtics Embraced Every Advantage of Extended Layoff

During a playoff series, teams will typically have one day off between games, sometimes two. But three consecutive days off? That’s almost unheard of. Yet, that’s the amount of time that the Celtics and Bucks were given between Games 2 and 3 of the Eastern Conference Semifinals.

There are some challenges that can come with prolonged time off in the middle of a series, such as restlessness or a halt in any positive momentum a team may have built. However, C’s head coach Ime Udoka believes the pros far outweigh the cons in this case, as it allows extra time to adjust for the next game, and for his team, extra time for guys like Jaylen Brown and Marcus Smart to recover from minor injuries.

“It's beneficial in a lot of ways,” Udoka said before leaving for Milwaukee Friday afternoon. “Obviously, this time of year, guys are banged up a little bit here and there and that benefits us as far as that and it gives us preparation time to make adjustments, look at the games, and see what we want to do better in areas to improve in.”

Udoka also emphasized how his team should embrace this extra time since they will only get one day off between games for the rest of the series.

“After this, it goes to every other day, so I think you have to take advantage of these last breaks you have before it gets to every other day,” said the first-year head coach, whose team is knotted 1-1 with the defending champions. “We've done that, had our preparation time with the week off before Brooklyn and after Brooklyn. I think it's benefited us going into the playoffs; these breaks have been great.”

If the Celtics hadn’t had such a long break – say, if they had only had one day off instead – it’s possible that Smart wouldn’t have been ready to return from the quad contusion that he suffered during Game 1, which then kept him sidelined for Tuesday’s Game 2.

On Thursday, he still wasn’t back to 100 percent health, noting how the swelling was restricting his ability to get down in a defensive stance. However, by Friday, Udoka said Smart was feeling much better and listed him as “probable” for Saturday afternoon’s game.

Brown had also dealt with some hamstring tightness coming into the series; though he stated it hadn’t been an issue during either of the first two games. Nonetheless, having a few days off should only lessen any concern of that muscle flaring up.

Rob Williams is another player who will embrace any chance to rest, considering how he’s still only five weeks removed from knee surgery. He’s now played four games since returning midway through the first round and seems to be getting more comfortable each time he steps on the court.

“Certain situations I feel like it’s good to have that break,” said the fourth-year center. “Obviously, both teams having a long season, going through injuries with guys. Thankfully we got a couple of days between.”

It’s also good for Williams, Al Horford and the rest of the frontcourt to get a little break considering how much physicality they’re dealing with in matching up against a bruising set of Bucks bigs. So far, they’ve done an excellent job against Giannis Antetokounmpo, limiting him the two-time MVP to a 38.5 percent shooting clip from the field.

Horford says he’s feeling well-rested and can’t wait to get back to battling the Greek Freak and the defending champs on the road.

“We’ve taken advantage of these three days,” said the 35-year-old vet, “and looking forward to getting back on the court tomorrow.”

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