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Celtics forced to shake it up

By Frank Dell’Apa
Globe Staff / January 2, 2010

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WALTHAM - The Celtics’ first unit concluded yesterday’s practice with Tony Allen at point guard and J.R. Giddens at forward. Coach Doc Rivers would not confirm a starting lineup for tonight’s game against Toronto, but with Kevin Garnett (hyperextended knee), Paul Pierce (knee infection), and Rajon Rondo (hamstring strain) out, the Celtics could be using some unprecedented combinations.

“We went over every single set, with all kinds of crazy, different lineups,’’ Rivers said, “because we may have to have those [tonight] and we are going to need some semblance of offense.’’

Rondo appears to have a good chance of returning either in a limited role tonight or when the Celtics visit Miami Wednesday. Pierce will likely be back during the three-game road trip (Miami, then Atlanta Friday and Toronto Jan. 10). Garnett is out indefinitely, “but it’s not a long indefinite,’’ according to Rivers. The Celtics are also missing Marquis Daniels (left wrist surgery) until February.

Rondo was injured in last Monday’s 103-99 loss at Golden State, but played in the 116-98 loss at Phoenix Wednesday.

“Unless something happens where he feels a lot better, I’m not going to play him,’’ Rivers said of Rondo. “He’s going to have to tell me he can really go.

“I watched film [of the Phoenix game] and thought he didn’t move well at all, even though he got in the game and played fantastic in some ways. I thought he took a lot of shortcuts because of the injury and, to me, if you’re going to play that way it hurts him and it hurts us, too. I would rather get him back to just being normal Rondo. We have this game and a three-day break - we have a chance to have him 100 percent the rest of the year. I just don’t want this to be a lingering thing.’’

Pierce developed an infection after scoring 21 points in a 103-94 win over Indiana Dec. 22. Arthroscopic surgery was performed before the infection could cause major damage.

The Celtics are being cautious with Garnett, who was injured in a 92-90 loss to the Clippers Dec. 27.

“It’s indefinite because we don’t know the date of his return, but it’s not going to be that long,’’ Rivers said. “I looked at the schedule and the days off, and thought this was the time to do it. It was a freak accident and Kevin is as frustrated as anybody. He hyperextended his knee twice - a freak accident. He jumped and he’s off his feet, someone kicks you. For that to happen once is almost impossible, for it to happen twice is bad luck. He’s frustrated and he asked how can that happen? Well, it happened in this game and that game, that’s how. It’s not a serious injury but if you don’t take care of it - especially in Kevin’s case, he’ll compensate, and then he would injure himself. And I’m not taking that chance.’’

By starting Tony Allen and Giddens, the Celtics would minimize disruptions to their rotations. Ray Allen could pair with Tony Allen in the backcourt and Rasheed Wallace could fill Garnett’s spot alongside center Kendrick Perkins.

Giddens could be getting his most playing time since joining the team as a first-round draft choice last season.

“It’s just a dream come true,’’ he said. “You work and work and go out and get the job done, try to make the most of this chance.

“Until it actually happens, I won’t know [of the starting role]. It’s a Christmas present. I’m not going to focus on it. I’m pretty sure I’m going to play, and that’s what I’ve been waiting on.

“It’s hard not to be excited. It would mean a lot, an actual NBA game, let alone getting some significant minutes. You’ve seen me - I’m anxious to get out there and show my gifts to the world. It’s crazy. I woke up this morning and wasn’t expecting this. Being a first-round pick and not having a chance to play, it’s very humbling. For this opportunity, I feel fortunate and blessed to get it. I just want to get some minutes and produce and show what I can do to help the team.’’

Perkins was scheduled to talk by telephone yesterday with the NBA’s Stu Jackson regarding the appeal of two technical fouls . . . Rivers on the Raptors: “Toronto is playing well, they’re playing great. We’re catching them at a great time, it’s a great time for us. I like when teams are playing well, it’s a great test. We’re intent on winning, not with the intent of feeling sorry for ourselves because four of our eight rotation players are out of the lineup. We’re coming in and saying with four of our eight rotation players out we’re going to win a game.’’ . . . The Celtics had a 57-23 record for the 2009 calendar year. Their record for 2008 was 68-18.

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

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