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Pierce still stinging after blow to shoulder

By Frank Dell’Apa
Globe Staff / March 31, 2010

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WALTHAM — Celtics captain Paul Pierce was “stung’’ again yesterday. Two days after sustaining a shoulder injury against San Antonio, Pierce was felled during practice, and his status was unclear for tonight’s game against Oklahoma City.

“It’s a stinger, same exact reaction, looked worse,’’ coach Doc Rivers said.

In the Spurs game, Pierce was hit on the left side by Manu Ginobili and felt pain in his right shoulder and upper back. Trainer Ed Lacerte diagnosed the injury as a “stinger’’ and Pierce was allowed to continue playing.

“Eddie says it’s a stinger, and if it’s a stinger, he’ll be fine,’’ Rivers said. “You get concerned two days in a row, a game and a practice, and the exact same thing happens.

“He just got picked and he went down, so we’ll find out. You can play a guy five minutes and that can happen. Nothing you can do about that.

“Good news — it’s not a shoulder separation or anything, and probably the worst case is he misses a game or two.’’

Meanwhile, center Kendrick Perkins, who missed two games because of knee tendinitis, returned to practice and is set to play against the Thunder.

“I thought I played pretty good at practice and the knees felt better,’’ Perkins said. “And I’m looking forward to getting out there and playing. Something I’ll deal with the rest of the season, continue to get treatment, come in at nighttime and get treatment.

“It was bothering me for the last two months or so. Everybody has injuries in the league, something hurting on everybody. So I’ve got to keep dealing with it — keep hitting the weights, treatment, strengthening, and go from there.’’

Asked if the injury affected his play, Perkins replied, “I think so, I can’t get up and really block shots like I want to, get up and rebound, but I’ve got to get the job done. Not trying to make excuses, but it has.’’

In their first meeting, the Celtics defeated the Thunder, 105-87 in Oklahoma City Dec. 4. The Thunder’s Kevin Durant scored 36 points in that contest.

“It really isn’t his athleticism that makes him tough,’’ Rivers said. “It’s his size and his shot. You rarely get a guy 6-10, 6-11 running off screens like Ray Allen.

“We really had a difficult time in Oklahoma. We won the game but we changed coverages three times in the game, which is a lot for us. In our opinion, we’re 0 for 3.’’

Oklahoma City has won 34 of 53 games since that meeting.

“They’re young and good and their best player is [Durant],’’ Rivers said. “The young teams that have any type of success, historically, there’s no doubt who their best player is. The young teams where everybody’s good always have problems because everybody’s fighting to see who is the man. I don’t think there’s any question who the man is on Oklahoma.’’

Still, Rivers said, he would have selected Greg Oden over Durant in the 2007 draft.

“I was for Oden, completely,’’ Rivers said. “I just wanted his size and all that. And anybody who tells you otherwise, they have amnesia. That’s all I’ll say. Everyone now, ‘I was Durant, Durant, I loved Durant.’ But I saw Oden’s size and I thought, ‘Go with Oden.’ Clearly, I made a mistake but that’s what I would have done.’’

Rivers said the Thunder will be a difficult playoff foe, despite a lack of experience.

“They’ve got all highly skilled players, Durant is highly skilled,’’ Rivers said. “The only way you’re going to get [experience] is by getting in it. It’s always dangerous. It’s clear the one thing you want to always avoid is if the best player is on the other team.’’

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

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