The Boston Celtics finished their first-round 2011 NBA Playoffs series against the New York Knicks on Sunday, sweeping through in four games. For an aging team with three stars -- Kevin Garnett, Paul Pierce and Ray Allen -- well into their 30s, the rest seems like a real boon. On the flip side, some argue that rust, or too much time away from five-on-five, full-tilt competition could hurt the Celtics in Game 1 against the Miami Heat, scheduled for Sunday at 3:30 p.m. ET.
As it turns out, Kevin Pelton of Basketball Prospectus has actually delved into the rest vs. rust matter, back in 2009 in advance of a Magic-Cavaliers Eastern Conference Finals series in which Cleveland had swept through the first two rounds while Orlando went to six and seven games in the first and second rounds.
Pelton's finding? Rest has a pretty small but positive impact.
Doing this shows rest as having some value, but not much; a regression analysis cannot conclusively determine that there is a positive value to having played fewer games the previous round, and suggests that each additional game of rest is worth about 0.2 wins during the following series.
The biggest impact actually shows up for underdogs who are substantially -- two or three games -- more well-rested than their favored opponents. The Celtics certainly aren't the underdogs against Miami, and the Heat only had to play one extra game in the first round, eliminating the 76ers on Wednesday.
Hat-tip to Zach Lowe for the reminder on Pelton's study.