After a third consecutive loss Tuesday in Chicago, coach Doc Rivers made two changes to the starting lineup to boost his team’s sagging energy.
Two days after saying he prefers Jason Terry coming off the bench for Courtney Lee at shooting guard, Rivers started Terry in Wednesday’s 103-91 win over the Cavaliers after a three-game stint as a reserve. Lee, who is underperforming this season, returned to the bench.
And after watching the Bulls slice up the Celtics’ defense with pick-and-rolls and backdoor plays, Rivers inserted center Jason Collins into the starting lineup, with Brandon Bass coming off the bench. It was Collins’s first start as a Celtic (he had 1 point in 23 minutes) after playing sparingly as a backup to Kevin Garnett.
With Garnett helping guards so much on pick-and-rolls, he gets out of position, allowing opposing big men to flash to the basket. Rivers said Collins’s presence is to prevent teams from attacking the paint.
“I’ve been talking about it a lot, we just haven’t done it,” Rivers said. “We have to try to find ways of getting Kevin off the [center] spot all game. Right now, even when [opposing teams] put other guys in, the same guys guard him at the same position. The only way you could force the action is to go with Jason.
“The con is that [Collins] is not as good offensively, but he can make it up defensively. He’s our second-best pick setter.”
Terry, who attempted just two shots in nearly 26 minutes in Tuesday’s loss, contributed 15 points on 6-of-9 shooting against the Cavaliers. Rivers said Terry needs more offensive opportunities, and playing more with Rajon Rondo will get him those opportunities.
“We’re just trying to keep Jet involved and he needs to be out there on the floor with a point guard who can get the deliver the ball to him,” said Rivers. “When he was with the other group, he didn’t get the ball.”
Bradley targets Jan. 2
The Celtics were pleased with how Avery Bradley fared in practice on Monday. He’ll practice again this weekend as the club prepares for a four-game trip that starts in Brooklyn on Christmas Day.
Bradley, who had surgery on both shoulders in the offseason, said trainers have targeted Jan. 2 for his return.
“That’s what I’m hoping for,” said Bradley, “the next home game after the West Coast trip. I doubt [I would play during that trip] knowing [trainer] Ed [Lacerte]. He sticks to the schedule and that’s what he’s been saying, around January, so we’ll see how I feel.”
Given that Rivers inserted Terry back into the starting lineup and he’d rather use him as a reserve, there is a spot at shooting guard that is waiting for Bradley. He would add a solid defender to the backcourt and help the team’s biggest weakness: opposing dribble penetration.
“Nobody is the savior for the team,” Bradley said. “We’re a team. All I can do is go out there and do my role and play as hard as I can.”
Rivers said the team arrived from Chicago at landed about 2:30 Wednesday morning, meaning the players had little time to get some rest before heading to the arena for a pregame workout.
“It won’t [affect] us, we just have to play basketball,” Jeff Green said. “Some days you don’t have [preparation], you just have to go out there and play. You can talk X’s and O’s all you want, but when you got out there on the court, you just have to go out there and play.’’
The Celtics got a break when Cavaliers center Anderson Varejao was declared out with a right knee bruise sustained in the first quarter of Tuesday’s loss to the Raptors. Varejao is the league’s leading rebounder at 14.4 per game, and always seems to give the Celtics fits with his relentlessness under the basket. “He’s just a joy to watch,” Rivers said. “He’s the most active [rebounder in the league]. I’m sure there’s somebody who has a better gift at it but he’s just an amazing player to watch, not only the best rebounder, he may be the best passing big [man].’’ . . . Collins was assessed a flagrant-1 foul on Tristan Thompson with 3:13 left in the fourth quarter . . . Rondo attempted a season-high 10 free throws, making six . . . The Cleveland bench was 5-for-19 shooting. The Cavaliers attempted 26 more shots than the Celtics, a byproduct of 13 offensive rebounds.Gary Washburn can be reached at email@example.com. Follow him on Twitter at @gwashNBAGlobe