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Celtics notebook

To Powe, there was no question about it

By Julian Benbow
Globe Staff / February 26, 2010

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The goal was to return when his leg was ready, but Leon Powe had last night marked on his calendar for a while.

The last time Powe was in a Celtics uniform was for Game 2 of the first-round playoff series against Chicago last spring, when after tearing the anterior cruciate ligament and meniscus in his left knee, he tried to play through it, going three minutes before coming off the floor.

He had surgery in May, and at the end of the season became a free agent, wondering whether the Celtics still saw a place for him after his third ACL operation.

Cleveland made an offer (two years, $1.8 million), the Celtics decided not to, and just like that, Powe, who had won a championship with Boston in 2008, was a Cavalier. He was hurt, but he moved on.

“Everybody knows my work ethic,’’ Powe said. “I don’t know if they were questioning my work ethic or what. I felt like if I work hard and I put in the time, I’d be able to get back when I said I was.’’

After nine months of rehabbing, Powe returned to TD Garden last night with the Cavaliers, checking in at the end of the first half and finishing with 4 points and two rebounds in four minutes. The person who was likely the least surprised by Powe’s comeback was Celtics coach Doc Rivers.

“When he got hurt,’’ Rivers said, “I kept hearing people say, ‘He’ll never play again.’ I said, ‘You clearly don’t know who Leon Powe is.’ If anybody’s going to play again, it’ll be Leon.’’

Powe, who averaged 6.6 points and 4.2 rebounds in three years as a grinder off the Celtics bench, worked his way back by not missing a second, much less a day of rehab.

“Just trying to do whatever to get me better,’’ Powe said. “If it’s 10 reps, I’d do 30. They’ll tell me to relax a little bit because you can’t get it back in one day.’’

Cavaliers coach Mike Brown never thought twice about general manager Danny Ferry’s decision to bring in Powe.

“Danny signed him, said he’d be all right in February,’’ said Brown.

“I’m not a heavy thinker; I didn’t think too much. I just said great. I knew he kicked our behind when we played against him.’’

Thumbs down
Paul Pierce tested his sprained right thumb by shooting around before the game, but he didn’t play.

Rivers said Pierce would likely miss the next couple of games.

“We want to make sure it gets right,’’ Rivers said. “That’s one of those things where if it gets hit again, it’ll go back down the road. We want to make sure when he comes back he can play, and play at the Paul level that we know.

“Right now, the swelling is down. The good part about it is when you’re shooting, no one’s hitting it. We just want to get him out of that stage [to] where if someone hits it, we can sustain the hit. Right now, if someone hits it, it would go right back to where it was.’’

Red cross, gold star
Filling in for Pierce despite having the flu himself, Marquis Daniels played 31 minutes, guarding LeBron James for most of them. There were points throughout the game when Rivers asked how Daniels was holding up and Daniels refused to tell him anything other than that he could play.

“I want to compete. I want to go out there and play,’’ said Daniels. “I just wanted to go out there and play and help the team.’’

He scored 4 points on 2 of 5 shooting, looking visibly ill in the locker room after the loss.

“He gave us everything he had,’’ Rivers said. “And I couldn’t ask more from him.’’

No mulligan
If Rivers could have had one mulligan last night, he would have used it in the second quarter when he allowed Rajon Rondo to stay on the floor. Rondo didn’t come off the court in the first half. But after scoring 14 points in the first two quarters, he went 1 for 7 in the second half, with the Cavaliers making a concerted effort to keep him out of the paint. “I made that decision in the middle of the first quarter,’’ Rivers said. “He talked me into it and it was a bad decision. Because his speed is so good, he’s got to get rest.’’ . . . The Cavaliers had lost five straight regular-season games in the Garden going back to 2007. “We haven’t had much success here,’’ James said. “So you get the monkey off your back. Don’t look too far into it though.’’

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