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Celtics notebook

Perkins's absence overcome

By Julian Benbow
Globe Staff / March 3, 2010

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AUBURN HILLS, Mich. - With Kendrick Perkins missing his first game of the season, the Celtics last night used their ninth different starting lineup, a sign of how difficult it’s been to find consistency this season.

“A lot of sickness, you battle injuries all year long,’’ Paul Pierce said after Boston’s 105-100 victory over the Pistons. “Eventually, we’ll be able to put a full team out there for a long stretch, hopefully pretty soon, and hopefully we go on a run. We’re going to have to get some momentum pretty soon here going into the playoffs, start playing better basketball at this point in the season.

Coach Doc Rivers said he liked the combination of Kevin Garnett and Rasheed Wallace on the floor at the same time because of the way it opened things up.

“Our guys, I’ve got to say, even though we’ve had all these different lineups, everybody’s been receptive to it,’’ said Rivers. “They’ve been able to execute it for the most part. So we’ll take it.’’

Knocking rust off
After taking a week to recover from a sprained right thumb and symptoms of the flu, Pierce went 2 for 6 with 9 points in 29 minutes in his return to the starting lineup.

“Paul was rusty,’’ Rivers said. “Paul really struggled out there, but that’s fine. You know that’s going to happen.

“Bottom line is we’ve got to use these games right now to get Paul going. He’ll be better tomorrow. He’ll be better the game after that, so we’ve just got to keep going.’’

Pierce played without any tape on the thumb, confident it could take a hit. He played eight minutes in the first quarter and felt winded while “trying to get my legs up.’’

He said he’ll benefit in the long run from taking a week off to let the injuries heal.

“With the little amount of injuries that I had - the foot sprain, the surgery on my knee, and the thumb - that was big just for me to sit down, get some treatment, rest my body, and just get it back for the stretch run,’’ Pierce said.

Making ’em count
There was a point in the middle of the season when Rajon Rondo was searching for a solution to his struggles at the line, at one point switching his shooting style.

Last night, with the Pistons threatening late, he sank all four of his fourth-quarter attempts, including a pair with six seconds left to seal the game.

After the game, he was as nonchalant about making them in the clutch as he was about missing them earlier in the season.

“I just made them tonight, it’s as simple as that,’’ Rondo said. “I didn’t put too much emphasis on it. I got the ball, they fouled me, I shot the ball. I’ve been working a lot on [his free throw shooting]. They are going to foul me, so I have to sit up there and try to knock them down.’’

He likes Mike
Asked what he thought about Michael Finley, the veteran swingman who asked for and was granted his release from the Spurs after spending five of his 14 seasons with them and winning one championship, Rivers was typically coy.

“He’s the second- or third-best player out of Proviso East,’’ Rivers said, grinning after finding another way to name-drop his high school alma mater. “Behind, you know . . .’’

The real question, one that had been circulating from the moment Finley was waived Monday, was what Rivers thought about the possibility of Finley in a Boston uniform. Two of the Celtics’ 15 roster spots are vacant, and Rivers said he could definitely see them adding a player.

“We’re looking around,’’ said Rivers. “I don’t even know if I can say anything about Michael. I don’t know what the rules are. He still hasn’t cleared waivers, so he’s not officially free.’’

The Finley the Celtics could be getting would be a 37-year-old shell of the player who averaged 20-plus points for five straight seasons in Dallas and for that matter the one that helped push the Spurs to the title in 2007.

Finley has played in only 25 games this season, limited because of a sprained left ankle. He played just 78 minutes in February, losing his minutes to Keith Bogans and George Hill.

His request for a release surprised the Spurs.

What he would add is championship experience and shooting, which Rivers values.

“I don’t think a veteran ever hurts,’’ Rivers said. “I think it always helps your team to have one, if it’s the right one.

“Every team has some holes. Shooting is one thing we can’t have enough of, as far as I’m concerned. You look at some of these other teams, their shooting is ridiculous.’’

Rivers ruled out the possibility that director of basketball development Tyronn Lue, 32, would trade a suit for a uniform and take one of the vacant roster spots.

Julian Benbow can be reached at jbenbow@globe.com.

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