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Celtics notebook

Before break, they need to make Net gains

Paul Pierce didn’t practice again because of a bruised foot and sprained hand but he expects to play against the Nets tonight. Paul Pierce didn’t practice again because of a bruised foot and sprained hand but he expects to play against the Nets tonight. (File/Elsa/Getty Images)
By Monique Walker
Globe Staff / February 16, 2011

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WALTHAM — The NBA All-Star break always seems to arrive at the right time.

The Celtics are looking forward to a long weekend, though they will have to get through the Nets tonight before they can pause to recharge for the rest of the season. Despite the relief waiting on the other side, the Celtics insist they are not overlooking tonight’s matchup at TD Garden.

“I’ve always been taught and always been told that the last game before the break is most important,’’ said Kevin Garnett, “because it’s momentum, especially when you’re getting ready to go on the road and leaving for a while. We approach this game like any other game. It’s a big game for us.’’

On Dec. 5, the Celtics left Newark with a 100-75 victory over the Nets. The game may have been more than two months ago, but the story line hasn’t changed much. Injuries forced the Celtics to adjust against the Nets then, and nagging injuries continue to affect the club now.

Paul Pierce did not practice for the second day in a row because of a bruised foot and sprained hand, but is expected to play tonight.

Coach Doc Rivers said his team isn’t dealing with anything it can’t overcome.

“Hopefully, we’re healthier this year in the second half,’’ Rivers said. “Last year we were not. Last year, they were different injuries. We were surgical injuries last year, is what I would call them. Even though they were back on the floor, they were not ready to play basketball, at least not competitive playoff basketball, and we understood that.

“This year’s different. Even with the guys coming back, minus [Jermaine O’Neal], not a lot of surgical guys. It’s just injuries.”

The Celtics (39-14) enter tonight with the best record in the Eastern Conference and would like to hit the break with a victory. A four-game trip out West begins Tuesday.

“I think everybody is looking forward to the break, no doubt about that,’’ Rivers said. “I’ve yet to come to an All-Star break where someone wasn’t looking forward to it.’’

West might play Celtics guard Delonte West will have to wait until today before finding out whether he’ll play against the Nets. West has been out with a broken wrist since November, and had to sit out the final part of practice yesterday after he was hit in the hand, Rivers said.

Doctors were expected to X-ray West’s hand to make sure the knock didn’t cause any additional damage.

“Delonte practiced, but he didn’t get through practice,’’ Rivers said. “He got hit on the hand. So we’ll see tomorrow.’’

The injury may be in a delicate place, but that can’t stop West from getting back on the floor at practice.

“You got to play, so if somebody’s going to hit you, they’re going to hit you,’’ Rivers said. “It’s going to happen. It’s basketball.’’

Contest credentials Pierce didn’t have much to say to the media after practice. He jokingly appointed Ray Allen to handle any questions on his behalf. So when Pierce was asked if he was comfortable with Allen selecting a favorite for the 3-point contest Saturday, Pierce said, “He’ll tell you the truth.’’ Last season, Pierce won the 3-point competition at All-Star Weekend, but Allen enters this year’s contest as the career record-holder for 3-pointers. So who will take a loss harder? “I don’t know,’’ Allen said. “It will be interesting. I don’t like losing. I don’t think either of us likes losing.’’ . . . Asked about Celtics legend Bill Russell receiving the Medal of Freedom at the White House yesterday, Garnett said, “It was different times back in the day. I respect that a lot of things they went through just for us to be here today. Bill Russell is everything and I just want to say congratulations.’’

Monique Walker can be reached at mwalker@globe.com.

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