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With Garnett sidelined, the rest is up to them

A painful sight for the Celtics: Kevin Garnett hurts his knee against the Jazz Thursday. A painful sight for the Celtics: Kevin Garnett hurts his knee against the Jazz Thursday. (Douglas C. Pizac/Associated Press)
By Frank Dell'Apa
Globe Staff / February 22, 2009
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PHOENIX - The Celtics received a shock to the system when Kevin Garnett hopped off the court in Salt Lake City Thursday night. Garnett traveled with the team to Phoenix later that night and hoped to be playing today against the Suns. Instead, he was persuaded to return to Boston, where he was diagnosed with a posterior muscle strain in his right knee.

But Garnett's teammates were not surprised that he will be out for at least two weeks.

"He's been laboring over the last couple days and it came to a head in Utah," guard Ray Allen said yesterday. "The best thing is to make sure to get some rest. Your body tells you - it lets you know when you need to get some rest."

Said captain Paul Pierce: "He probably needs a little rest, anyway. This has been going on for the last couple weeks. Maybe this will be good for him down the stretch - we want a 100 percent Kevin Garnett, especially going into the playoffs."

Meanwhile, the Suns have had crises of their own. They seemed to be sinking as they played host to the NBA All-Star Game last Sunday, then replaced coach Terry Porter with Alvin Gentry and went on a scoring spree. But during a game against the Los Angeles Clippers Wednesday, forward Amar'e Stoudemire absorbed a blow to his right eye, which caused a partially detached retina that will keep him out for at least eight weeks.

Still, the Suns took a 140-118 home victory over Oklahoma City Friday night, their third straight 140-point game.

"They may [score 140], but they haven't done it against us yet," Celtics coach Doc Rivers said. "I don't worry about those teams. You know what they're doing. First of all, they are terrific offensively, they always have been, they always will be, as long as [Steve] Nash is there. But we're terrific defensively.

"Obviously, we don't have Kevin, but that doesn't change our team defense. We have to be efficient offensively, too. Some things Kevin did we can't duplicate; we're not going to try.

"It's got to be a team effort. Kevin has the ability - he's just so smart - he has the ability to see things that we didn't discuss as a staff or in shootaround, that he has the ability to sniff out. The young guys are not to that level yet. And we're going to miss that.

"You can't prepare for those misses, where it looks like we were prepared defensively but sometimes it's Kevin seeing something that we didn't pick up. Our team defense has to be very solid and it has to be a collection.

"It's a great challenge. [The Suns] are playing with great confidence."

If Garnett sits for two weeks, he'll miss six games. Any longer and he could miss home dates against Cleveland (March 6) and Orlando (March 8).

"It makes you feel better no surgery is required, or anything like that," Rivers said. "[But] we don't know how long. I don't worry about guys who are out as much as I worry about guys who are playing.

"The day [Garnett] can be back, he'll be back working on that day, you know that. My thoughts have to be with the guys that are playing and focus on that."

The Celtics, who are also missing Tony Allen (thumb surgery), will visit the Denver Nuggets tomorrow and the Clippers Wednesday. They will continue with an 11-man roster, but hope to add a free agent or two before the March 1 playoff roster deadline.

Rivers does not expect temporary help.

"If a guy was that good, it wouldn't be a 10-day deal," Rivers said after a one-hour practice at Brophy Preparatory School in Phoenix yesterday. "If somebody is good enough to replace Kevin, he'd be playing for somebody already.

"We're still looking at the same group of guys out there, whoever they are. And if we can get them tomorrow, we'll take them. If we can't, we'll keep working on getting them, but we are not going to make a mistake for short-time gain and lose something that may help us long term."

Meanwhile, the Celtics will attempt to slow down the Suns.

"They have always been one of the highest-scoring teams in the league," Allen said. "They push the ball. [Former coach Mike] D'Antoni's system gave power and freedom to the players to get the ball up and shoot and be somewhat wild and crazy. The last couple games, they've gotten back to that."

Frank Dell'Apa can be reached at f_dellapa@globe.com.

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