On Saturday night, the Charlotte Hornets boosted their playoff hopes by grabbing what appeared to be an impressive 115-100 win over the Eastern Conference-leading Atlanta Hawks.
But the victory came against a roster that hardly resembled the one that has been so dominant.
With the No. 1 seed in the East secured, the Hawks rested all five of their starters. If they continue to employ a similar strategy during the season’s last two weeks, it could affect the Celtics.
Atlanta has four games remaining against teams still pursuing playoff berths — two against the Nets and one each against the Hornets and Bucks. But Celtics coach Brad Stevens said that by surging comfortably into first place, Atlanta has earned the right to approach the stretch run as it wishes.
“I think with 82 games, each organization has to best decide how to manage their roster,” Stevens said. “It’s a long season and some of those guys, especially in their starting lineup, are 30-plus. I think at the end of the day, that’s each organization’s decision.”
He’d like a do-over
Los Angeles Clippers coach Doc Rivers has countless memories from leading the Celtics to the 2008 NBA title.
But before his current team faced his former one Sunday, Rivers revealed regret about how he spent some of his time after the clinching Game 6.
“If I could do one thing over that night, I would’ve gone to the locker room,” Rivers said. “You know, I never went to the locker room after the championship. It’s the strangest thing; I don’t know why I didn’t.”
Instead, Rivers said, he walked into his office and sat there with his wife and mother.
“It’s funny, when I see film of it now, I see my kids just underage drinking,” Rivers said with a chuckle. “I see them jumping around with the champagne — especially the youngest one, I think he was like 11. But I never went in. I never was part of it. I don’t even know why.”
Rivers said it is always special to return to Boston, and this weekend was no different. “It’s always nice,” he said. “It’s great going out in the city, getting a couple of free meals. I always love those.”
A win over the Clippers would have both improved the Celtics’ playoff position and helped their draft hopes. Boston received Los Angeles’s 2015 first-round pick as compensation for Rivers breaking his contract to join the Clippers.
The more the Clippers lose, the higher the Celtics’ pick will be. The problem for the Celtics is that the Clippers haven’t lost very often. Entering Sunday, they were in position for the 26th overall pick.
“We’re playing our way into what I probably am worth,” Rivers said. “The more wins, the worse the pick is. So it works out pretty good.”
Regardless of where that pick falls, Rivers commended the Celtics for how they have set themselves up for the future.
“Danny [Ainge], what does he have, like 1,200 draft picks over the next three years?” Rivers said. “Plus the players and plus the money. I think they’re set up to be pretty good pretty quick.”
With 5:10 left in the fourth quarter Sunday, there was some commotion near the Clippers’ bench and Rivers yelled to the Celtics’ medical staff for help. It turned out that a fan sitting along the baseline needed medical attention.
The game was stopped for several minutes and the fan was ultimately taken away on a stretcher. A TD Garden spokesperson told the Globe that the fan was conscious while leaving the arena to be transported to Massachusetts General Hospital.
“From everything I was told, it was addressed appropriately and quickly and hopefully, from what I was told, they think the person is going to be OK, and hopefully they will be,” Stevens said. “Certainly our thoughts are with them. It puts everything into perspective pretty quickly.”
Rivers offered an interesting comparison for Celtics rookie guard Marcus Smart. “I think he’s a better version of me, and I’m not kidding,” Rivers said. “He’s a defensive guard, but he can score. That’s the difference.” Rivers said he knew Smart would be drafted long before the Clippers’ 28th pick, so he was not extremely familiar with him coming out of Oklahoma State. But Rivers has learned quickly. “He’s got a strong body and he likes defense,” Rivers said. “He’s tough. Like, he’s a really good defensive player on the ball, off the ball. He’s making plays, too, offensively. I like him a lot.” . . . Rookie forward James Young had 20 points on 7-for-20 shooting in the Maine Red Claws’ 108-107 win over Grand Rapids on Sunday. Young added seven rebounds and five assists . . . The Clippers signed former Celtics guard Lester Hudson to a 10-day contract. He averaged 31.2 points, 7.7 rebounds, and 6.9 assists in 50 games this season in the Chinese Basketball Association, where Hudson is a two-time MVP and three-time All-Star.