Celts are beaten and beaten up
|03.08.09 at 4:06 pm ET|
When Big Baby Davis hobbled off the court late in the third quarter, his right ankle throbbing, the Celtics bench consisted of the following players: Stephon Marbury, Mikki Moore, Gabe Pruitt, Bill Walker and J.R. Giddens.
In other words, two guys who weren’t even with the team two week ago, two rookies who hardly play and a second-year guard who seen the court since his DUI arrest. “We missed everybody who was not out there,” Paul Pierce said. “It just seems like every game bodies are going down.”
Add Baby to the list that includes Kevin Garnett, who is out at least another week with a knee strain, Brian Scalabrine and Tony Allen who are out considerably longer and Rajon Rondo who missed the game with a sprained right ankle that swelled up over night.
Take all that into account, add in the fact that the C’s sleep-walked through the first half like they hadn’t set their clocks for daylight savings time and it’s a minor miracle that with under a minute to go, Ray Allen had a chance to tie the game with a 3-pointer in the corner. (Click here for a recap).
Allen, who made just about everything else in the fourth quarter had to slightly adjust the trajectory of his shot with all 7-feet of Dwight Howard charging into him. His shot on-line, but not true.
Allen scored 17 of his 32 points in the fourth quarter, but true to form, it was the ones he missed that will stay with him. “There were three shots I missed tonight,” Allen said. “Those are three shots, honestly, those are my shots. I know when I get on the floor (to practice) I’ll take those shots.”
The veteran that he is, Allen knows that to spend too much time worrying about what might have been won’t do him any good, which is exactly the situation the Celtics find themselves in at this very moment. Less than 48 hours after the high of the Cleveland game, they crash-landed into the reality that for the forseeable future they will have to make do with what they have.
“Somehow we have to get through the rest of the season,” said Pierce who passed Robert Parish for third on the franchise’s all-time scoring list. “So I think the most important thing right now is grinding out these games and trying to get healthy going into the playoffs. That’s our focus–getting the guys that need to be healthy out onto the court, because once the playoffs start we are going to need everybody if we are going to make this run.”
At this point no one is sure how long Rondo and Davis will be out. Garnett is targeting next Sunday at Milwaukee at the earliest for his return, but as Doc Rovers cautioned before the game, that’s only an estimate.
“Obviously we want home court,” Rivers said. “But we believe we can win on the road. We have to be healthy to win. If Kevin needs another week, we’re going to give him another week. If Rondo needs a week, we’re going to give him a week.”
The injuries impacted several crucial decisions that Rivers made Sunday, but the biggest was the move to start Stephon Marbury ahead of Eddie House. Afterward Rivers second-guessed himself, saying his instinct was to start House, who has a better understanding of the system, so as not to affect Pierce and Allen.
With Marbury at the controls in the first quarter, the Celtics sputtered and scored just 15 points. While not entirely his fault, ball movement was virtually non-existent and sets didn’t develop as planned. In 20 minutes, he had just four points, no assists and three turnovers and admitted to some frustration. It is far too early to judge Marbury on the court, but it is fair to say that he has a long way to go.
“Like I told you guys, he’s not going to be as good as his first game,” Rivers said. “And it’s going to take a while.”
The flip side to all of that is the only way for Marbury to get acclimated to his new team is to “burn minutes,” as Rivers said, and the extra playing time for Leon Powe, Moore, Davis, et al might prove beneficial down the road. To their credit the Celtics have not made excuses for the injuries and the fourth quarter run was inspiring, if draining; Pierce and Allen played a combined 91 minutes.
“I don’t take the mentality that we are hanging on,” Allen said. “It’s a great opportunity to get valuable minutes because the deeper we are in the playoffs the better we will be as a team. It only makes us better.”
That may wind up being true, but right now the Celtics would gladly exchange on the job experience for a few more healthy bodies.
It wasn’t exactly the way he might have liked it to happen, but when Pierce moved passed Parish on the Celtics all-time scoring list he further cemented his standing among the greatest ever to wear the uniform. The only players ahead of Pierce now are Larry Bird and John Havlicek.
“It’s great when you pass one of the all-time great Celtics, a Hall of Fame player,” Pierce said. “I’ve had the opportunity to play with the same franchise for quite a while now, so to be mentioned among those guys at the top is really an honor.”
Pierce is well aware of the tradition of the franchise of course, and so he understands that those honors take new meaning for his legacy now that he has a championship. “It would look odd when you look at the record books, 20, 30 years from now and say, ‘Bird, Havlicek, Paul Pierce, Robert Parish’ and guys will be like, ‘Who’s Paul Pierce?'” the Captain joked. “So it definitely helps.”
The reality is Pierce’s career is strong enough to stand on its own, but it certainly doesn’t hurt.