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Celtics notebook

Ankle sprain sends Pierce to bench

A diving Caron Butler gets a piece of the ball and a piece of Paul Pierce’s left ankle during a collision in the first half. A diving Caron Butler gets a piece of the ball and a piece of Paul Pierce’s left ankle during a collision in the first half. (Alex Brandon/Associated Press)
By Julian Benbow and Gary Washburn
Globe Staff / February 2, 2010

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WASHINGTON - Paul Pierce and Caron Butler could not keep themselves from crashing into each other early on, and not wanting to risk losing his captain for a second time this season, coach Doc Rivers chose to sit him the final 13 minutes 32 seconds of the Celtics’ 99-88 win over the Wizards last night.

Calling it a mid-mild left ankle sprain, Pierce will have X-rays today.

He initially came out of the game after colliding with Butler with 2:01 left in the first quarter, bruising his left foot. They banged into each other again as time was about to expire in the first half, with Pierce stepping on Butler’s foot and the players knocking knees.

“I thought I was playing football for a minute,’’ Pierce said.

Pierce played 10 minutes in the third quarter, but looking at how Pierce was running and knowing he had missed five games with a knee infection, and with Kevin Garnett recently returning from a hyperextended knee, Rivers was cautious.

“I just wasn’t going to take the chance,’’ Rivers said. “I shouldn’t have even played him in the second half, in my opinion. I think I messed that one up.

“I just didn’t like the way he was moving. He wasn’t moving right and when you ask him if he’s all right he says, ‘I’m just going to go.’ I know Paul well enough now, that’s not the answer that I was looking for.

Pierce shrugged off his latest ailment.

“I felt good, but I did have pain in the foot,’’ he said. “I’ll be all right.’’

Stumping the slump
A day after Ray Allen shot 2 for 10 and front-rimmed a possible winning 3-pointer in the Celtics’ 90-89 loss to the Lakers, rumors about his job security swirled. The possibilities ranged from Allen being supplanted in the starting lineup by Tony Allen to being dealt for a younger guard.

Rivers tempered the speculation, saying Tony Allen’s play only helps in the long term and keeping Ray Allen (who started last night against the Wizards) fresh for the playoffs is important.

“It expands the rotation is what it does,’’ Rivers said. “It gives Ray more rest and that’s what we want . . . We want Ray to be fresher at the end of games and in the long run that will pay off for us. It’s what we hope for. It doesn’t make our decisions tougher much at all.’’

Rivers said much of the noise about trades is baseless.

“I think there’s a lot of talk right now because the trade deadline [Feb. 18] is coming up and I think there’s a lot of talk this year,’’ Rivers said. “I don’t ever think a lot’s going to be done. I just think the contracts forbid trades for the most part. They don’t help at all.’’

Ray Allen’s 3-point shooting percentage (.339) is the lowest in his 13-year career, and his scoring (15.7 points per game) hasn’t been this low since his rookie season. Allen had 17 points on 6-of-13 shooting against the Wizards.

Reggie Miller, one of the greatest shooters in NBA history and now an analyst with TNT, said in a teleconference, “Obviously the older you get for jump shooters your percentages go down. I think that’s what everyone is somewhat concerned about with Ray right now.’’

Miller said Ray Allen’s strict pregame preparation might be too grueling.

“He was a lot like me when it came to preparation before a game,’’ Miller said. “I liked to get there three or four hours before a game and, as I called it, smell the gym, get up there early and get some shots up. I told him, the older I got, I cut back. I got there at the same time, but I didn’t go through a two-hour shooting routine because I felt drained once the game started. He might have to start thinking about that by cutting down a lot of volume of shots that he puts up before the game so he can be a little fresher when game time comes around.’’

After missing the first 20 games of the season while recovering from offseason ankle surgery, Tony Allen was immediately thrown into the mix, returning as Pierce went down with the knee infection. He’s averaged 6.8 points per game, but he’s also been more disciplined defensively, particularly Sunday against the Lakers, handcuffing Kobe Bryant.

“He’s been playing great, and he’s been playing more consistent,’’ Rivers said. “The offensive part is gravy. I’m just really happy with his defense overall. I think over the last 10 games this might be his best stretch defensively that he’s had. It’s been huge for us.’’

Still, the debate lives about which Allen would give the Celtics more help at this point.

“That’s always been [the case] on the floor defensively with Ray,’’ Rivers said. “You’re always thinking at the end of games, ‘Do we put in another defender?’ So that’s always on the table.’’

Long distance hang-up
No coach has a closer - and maybe more frustrating - perspective on Rasheed Wallace’s perimeter shooting than Wizards coach Flip Saunders. He coached four seasons in Detroit, and in that span Wallace took 1,364 threes, more than a third of his career total.

He made 444 of them, a clip of 32.5 percent. Wallace averaged a team-high 4.9-trey attempts a game going into last night’s contest, shooting 30 percent.

“I think the thing that gets everyone frustrated is that he’s such a good post-up player,’’ Saunders said. “When he wants to post up he’s one of the top post-up players in the league. As I told Antawn [Jamison] when I had [Wallace] in Detroit, there’s only one team that I knew he was going to post up against and that was when he played Antawn. Whether it’s a North Carolina thing or whatever. He’ll still shoot his threes, but he’ll try to get in the post a lot more.

“As a center, you prefer him not to do that, but [the Celtics] invert their offense a lot . . . so that’s why they’ve been very difficult to beat in the past because they have the ability to put different people out on the floor.’’

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