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April 3, 2008

On the cusp of the top seed, Celts have decision to make

BOSTON — Rajon Rondo is young, energetic and wants to play as much basketball as he possibly can.

But the reality is that the Boston Celtics lanky second-year point guard from Kentucky could quite possibly see his minutes decrease over the next two weeks. Ditto for the rest of Rondo's fellow starters, as the Celtics begin preparing and getting as healthy as possible for the NBA playoffs.

Boston has all but solidified its spot as the No. 1 seed throughout the postseason after last night's 92-77 thrashing of the Indiana Pacers in front of a sellout crowd of 18,624 at TD Banknorth Garden. With seven games remaining, the Celtics (60-15) magic number to clinch the best record in the league is down to two. Meanwhile, at 31-44, the Pacers are now four games out of the final playoff spot in the East.

Considering that all of the Celtics' remaining opponents have a record below .500 (except Washington), it shouldn't be long before Boston does nail down the top spot.

Thus, the Green will have to answer the question that faces every highly-successful NBA team in April: How much rest should the starters get?

"I don't know what's going to happen with playing time over the next couple weeks," said the 6-foot-1 Rondo, who is averaging 10.7 points and five assists in 30.3 minutes per game. "Doc's (Rivers) going to make that call and I'm sure it will be the right call.

"I'm young, I'm only 22-year-old, so I want to keep playing. But it's up to coach. Either way I'm going to be in the gym getting my work in."

You don't have look too far back to find a team that was victimized by its own success. Last year's Dallas Mavericks won 67 games and clinched home-court throughout the playoffs early in April. However, head coach Avery Johnson opted to rest his nucleus down the stretch, which may have contributed to the Mavs' historical demise in the first round of the playoffs against the No. 8 seed Golden State Warriors.

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