BOSTON | Boston Celtics coach Doc Rivers was ready to give his aging starters some rest. First, though, he needed to know that his bench could handle it.
The Boston backups proved themselves capable in the fourth quarter on Wednesday night, expanding a 20-point lead to 37 and helping the Celtics coast to a 114-83 victory over Washington for their most lopsided win of the season. Except for Shaquille O'Neal, who’s battled injuries, all of the starters played a season-low in minutes.
“I know Rajon (Rondo) may have had 30, but other than that I could take those every night,” Rivers said. “That would be terrific.”
With one of the oldest lineups in the league, Rivers has remained mindful of the minutes his starters play, restricting their playing time to keep them fresh for what they expect to be a long postseason. But he’s waited 10 games before resorting to pitch counts.
“You’ve got to get yourself thrown back into the season,” Rivers said. “But now it’s time to get our minutes to where we want them.”
Nick Young scored 20 points for the Wizards, who were without No. 1 overall draft pick John Wall and center Yi Jianlian. Both also missed Tuesday night’s game, a 109-94 victory over Toronto.
“We didn’t play them last night and we won,” Wizards coach Flip Saunders said. “Not much to say.”
The depleted roster helped Boston pull away early and rest their aging starters in its first game back after a four-city road trip.
“I told our guys, ‘They reached right into our chest and just took away our will,’” Saunders said. “We just couldn’t do anything. They passed and shot at will.”
The Celtics have won three in a row and eight of their last nine.
“They’re built for a championship; we’re rebuilding,” said Gilbert Arenas, who scored 20 on Tuesday and just nine on Wednesday. “These are the games when you’re on the playground and you beat somebody up, and then the real bully comes and beats you up. We played great last night … and then the big fish came and whooped us up.”
It was 89-69 at the end of three quarters, and the Celtics‘ bench led by as many as 37 in the fourth. Delonte West scored 12 points in his first game back from a 10-game suspension, Semih Erden scored nine and Glen “Big Baby” Davis had eight rebounds.
“It was fun for me to be able to sit back and watch these guys. I just found myself being a fan of the game, which I am anyway,” said West, who was punished after pleading guilty to weapons charges. “You realize it’s a championship-caliber team and I’m a part of it.”
Boston trailed 12-9 before scoring 12 of the game’s next 13 points, including three straight inside baskets from O'Neal. Washington cut it to three points in the second quarter against the Boston bench, but the Celtics‘ starters returned and scored 12 in a row, this time with Garnett putting in three baskets.