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Doc Rivers laments big minutes for Celtics’ stars

Rajon Rondo needed a helping hand from Brandon Bass in the fourth quarter. Rondo played a game-high 53 minutes.

yoon s. byun/globe staff

Rajon Rondo needed a helping hand from Brandon Bass in the fourth quarter. Rondo played a game-high 53 minutes.

The numbers were far beyond what Doc Rivers wanted: 40 minutes for Kevin Garnett, 44 for Paul Pierce, 48 for Jason Terry, and a whopping 53 for Rajon Rondo. But in a game that went to double overtime Wednesday night before the Celtics prevailed, 117-115, Rivers didn’t exactly have a choice.

Still, the coach was beating himself up a bit afterward for the playing time of his stars. Rondo, in particular.

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“I thought the biggest mistake I made, actually, was keeping Rondo in that long,” Rivers said. “I took the gamble. Sometimes it’s a good one. Sometimes it’s a bad one. I didn’t think this was a good one. I just thought he got tired.”

Rivers normally gives Rondo a breather with two minutes left in the third quarter. He didn’t against the Mavericks. And that proved to be a problem, though Rondo did manage to finish with 16 points, 15 assists, and 9 rebounds. He also had five turnovers.

As Rivers said, “I thought we started walking the ball up the floor. I thought our tempo changed in the fourth quarter . . . I thought that had an impact on him, and on the speed of the game.”

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It might have had an impact on Rondo’s inability to make anything happen with possession of the ball and seconds to go in both regulation and the first overtime. Both times, the Celtics couldn’t get up much of a shot.

“I told our guys with like four minutes left — my coaches, because then it was too late — I said, ‘This was not a good decision.’ And that decision could have hurt us,” Rivers said.

Not that he could have anticipated that the game would go two overtimes.

And it wasn’t just Rondo. It was Garnett, too. Rivers asked Garnett — who finished with 16 points and five rebounds — whether he needed a rest during the second overtime. Garnett didn’t answer, which Rivers took to indicate he probably needed some time on the bench.

Garnett didn’t get it.

Neither did Pierce, who used his 44 minutes to score 34 points on 11-of-25 shooting, adding six rebounds and three assists. Not that he was willing to admit he needed more rest.

“I’m caught into the game,” Pierce said. “When the game is tight, the type of game that was going on tonight, I’m really caught up in the game, not really thinking about my minutes.

“That’s the coach, I think he’s watching the game, seeing the flow of the game, seeing how I’m playing, seeing how I’m defending. If he sees I’m still playing at a high level, he’s going to leave me out there. I thought I had pretty good legs throughout most of the night.”

With the Celtics leaving at noon on Thursday for a trip that will take them to Houston, San Antonio, and Chicago, with three games in five nights, that certainly wasn’t how Rivers would have preferred Wednesday night’s game to go. The Celtics will not practice on Thursday, though they wouldn’t have no matter how long the game against Dallas went.

“Once overtime comes, I don’t think about it, especially if there’s no game the next day and I know they have the day off,” Rivers said. “I don’t give it a lot of thought.

“We’ve had three days off, or two days off [since playing the 76ers on Saturday], so you were hoping they had something in the tank. At the end of the day, you’ve just got to be careful.”

Especially with Garnett, who already has 51,000-plus minutes on his NBA résumé.

There was one piece of good news after the game, besides the fact that the Celtics were able to come up with their second straight win.

As Rivers put it, “They’re going to sleep tonight.”

Amalie Benjamin can be reached at abenjamin@globe.com. Follow her on Twitter @amaliebenjamin.
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