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Wallace’s ejection costly

Backup center was missed on boards

Rasheed Wallace, who experienced familiar technical difficulties, roughs up Elton Brand (left). Rasheed Wallace, who experienced familiar technical difficulties, roughs up Elton Brand (left). (Barry Chin/ Globe Staff)
By Frank Dell’Apa
Globe Staff / December 19, 2009

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Coach Doc Rivers’s advice to his players on technical fouls is not to draw them late in the game. But Rivers might have to modify that guideline with Rasheed Wallace, who picked up two technicals and was ejected midway through the second quarter of a 98-97 loss to Philadelphia last night.

At that point, the Celtics had a 42-29 lead and Tony Allen was going to the foul line. The Celtics were setting the pace and more than matching the Sixers’ aggression on the boards. By the second half, though, the Celtics were struggling to match up with Philadelphia’s inside strength, a weakness that ended up being decisive. The Celtics won the first-half rebound battle, 31-20; Philadelphia outrebounded the Celtics, 25-15, in the second half.

“It affected us a lot, we need Rasheed,’’ center Kendrick Perkins said of Wallace’s ejection. “It showed we can use him, in a lot of ways. Still, in all, we should have won the game.’’

Wallace’s reputation for techs preceded him when the Celtics made him their prime free agent signing in the offseason. But Wallace had not been ejected from a game since a Feb. 25 contest against New Orleans when he was playing for Detroit.

Wallace was whistled for eight technicals through Dec. 1, but the Celtics seemed to have settled into a rhythm and were winning games regularly. And Wallace, though continuing to display a strong personality, was staying on the good side of referees. .

Until last night.

Wallace was on the Celtics’ bench when a timeout was called with 5:35 remaining in the half. Official Leroy Richardson was near the center circle when he issued a “T’’ to Wallace, who continued to express himself. Official Bill Kennedy was standing on the baseline near the Celtics’ bench and, as the timeout ended, slapped the second “T’’ on Wallace, who then attempted to approach the referees and was held back by associate head coach Tom Thibodeau.

Asked if he was disappointed in the ejection, Rivers replied: “Yeah, I am. I’m disappointed when anybody gets thrown out of a game. You know, whether he’s right or wrong doesn’t matter - you’ve got to control yourself to stay in the game. But he didn’t. And I didn’t - I wasn’t going to try to stand there and talk him out of it. He’s a grown man. And, you know, at some point, it’s him - he understands his value to this team, and his teammates understand his value to the team, and I think, at some point, that’ll get to him.

“Listen, I can [talk to Wallace]. And I will a little bit. But, I’m not going to have a summit, I can tell you that. It’s too early. He’s been doing it a long time. He’s an expert at it. But we knew that when we got him, and I still love him. I think he’s great, he’s been great for our team, but he’s going to have some of these days.’’

Those who see the Celtics as a championship contender have usually added the caveat that the team must remain healthy. Until recently, though, the implication was injuries might spoil everything. But key players on the team’s second unit have displayed a tendency to self-destruct. Glen Davis broke his hand on the eve of the season-opener fighting with a friend. Wallace’s overreaction caused him to be tossed with the Celtics holding a 13-point lead - though it is curious that of the five fouls charged to the Celtics at that point, three were on Wallace (the Celtics went the opening quarter without a personal foul). Wallace could receive a further suspension, plus he is six technicals away from an automatic suspension, so the Celtics could lose an otherwise healthy inside force for even more games.

“ [Wallace] getting ejected, it did cause a strain on our bench down the stertch,’’ said Ray Allen. “That was early in the game. And we missed him out there. He has to know he has an integral role on this team, making us better. We need him out there on the floor and we just have to make sure we keep him calm.

“Referees are going to make bad calls, we are going to make mistakes, as teammates, coaches make mistakes. But we’ve just go to keep our temper, because we’re playing for something that we’re all chasing together, and we’ve just got to get across to him that - let’s keep it together.’’

Asked if the Celtics had talked to Wallace about technicals, Allen said:

“We haven’t. It’s something that we’ve talked about individually, a couple of us have talked about it. He has to understand from us how important he is to us - whether you’re coming off the bench, playing 15 minutes or you’re playing 25 or 30 minutes, you’re important to us - especially right now with Glen (Davis) not in the lineup, Rasheed is very important to us. We just have to hit that home more probably than what we’ve done.’’

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