|Doc Rivers gave a shout out to Sixers’ Doug Collins as his Coach of the Year candidate. (Tim Shaffer/Reuters)|
Allen aching to see healthy version of team
PHILADELPHIA — Taking in last night’s 89-86 loss to the 76ers, Ray Allen concerned himself less with the 6 minutes 20 seconds when the Celtics’ offense fell into a black hole and more with the missing pieces in the lineup and the difference they’ll make once they return.
The Celtics played their 14th straight game without Shaquille O’Neal (inflamed right Achilles’), fifth straight without Delonte West (sprained right ankle), and fourth straight without Glen Davis (strained left patellar tendon). Injuries have been the theme throughout the season, and the Celtics have had to figure out a way to adapt with bodies moving in and out of the lineup. Allen just wants to see what the team would look like if ever healthy.
“I think we can play better,’’ he said. “It’s such a tough situation that I look at the last game we played them, [Rajon] Rondo didn’t play. I’ll be excited when we get a full lineup back again and see what we can do at full strength.’’
The starters are going through a tough stretch, falling behind early and handing over deficits to a second unit that’s still learning. The core four are the same, but between Jermaine O’Neal, Shaquille O’Neal, Kendrick Perkins, and now Nenad Krstic, they’ve had to work in a new fifth wheel every few weeks.
“We started out the season playing well with Shaq out there on the floor,’’ Allen said. “I think our second unit is much stronger. So, I do know that we’ll be even better with Shaq because Krstic is playing well.’’
Shaquille O’Neal is a difference-maker, Allen said, and even though the Celtics have been expecting him back for weeks, his return is unclear.
The vote is in With last night’s win, the 76ers are 34-31, a half-game behind the Knicks for sixth place in the Eastern Conference, and Doug Collins is Doc Rivers’s choice for Coach of the Year, even considering the job his former assistant Tom Thibodeau is doing with the Bulls.
“I love Thibs,’’ Rivers said. “I’ve said since the middle of the year, there’s nobody’s team that’s changed more. But my vote: Doug Collins, Nate McMillan, Tom Thibodeau, in that order.’’
The 76ers are scoring more this season (99.4 points per game, 15th in the league before last night). They were the worst team in the league at defending the 3-pointer last season, now they’re the second best, holding teams to 33 percent. They move the ball (22.5 assists per game) and don’t cough it up (13.4 turnover average).
But the intangibles are what stick out.
“He’s gotten them to buy in,’’ Rivers said. “They trust everything, they’ve kind of given themselves to the team, the whole team. Doug’s done that. When you think about where they were last year, where they are this year, with same personnel. I don’t even think there’s a choice, as far as who’s done the best job. In terms of wins and losses, Phil Jackson, Gregg Popovich, all those guys, Thibs — but as far as change, Doug Collins to me is hands down [Coach of the Year].’’
Test subject Davis made the trip and tested his knee during the shootaround, his first since the injury. He said he’s felt pain in the knee going back to last season.
Davis is one of five Celtics out with injuries, but Rivers expects him to be the first to return.
“I might practice [today],’’ Davis said. “It depends on how this feels.’’
“He looked better,’’ Rivers said. “He didn’t do enough, honestly. It was just skeleton work. You can’t tell from that. I do think he’ll play [tomorrow], but we don’t know that for sure.’’
The Celtics will hold a partial practice today for the second unit, but according to Rivers, “we don’t have enough bodies right now. We have to have rest days.’’
Making it easy The Celtics have allowed 100 points in four of their last seven games. “We’ve been bad,’’ Rivers said. “We just haven’t done our jobs. Each guy, we’ve been bad defensively. Point blank. No excuses, has nothing to do with the new guys. We haven’t changed our schemes, we’re just not doing it, and that’s the guys that have been here and the new guys. We just haven’t done it, we haven’t done it well.’’
Julian Benbow can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.