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Celtics notebook

Return of Bass adds offensive dimension

The Cavaliers’ Kyrie Irving splits Celtics Ray Allen (20) and Rajon Rondo at the top of the key during the second quarter. The Cavaliers’ Kyrie Irving splits Celtics Ray Allen (20) and Rajon Rondo at the top of the key during the second quarter. (Tony Dejak/Associated Press)
By Frank Dell’Apa
Globe Staff / February 29, 2012
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CLEVELAND - The Celtics’ starting lineup against Cleveland last night included both Brandon Bass and Kevin Garnett for only the fourth time this season.

On Monday, Bass went through his first full practice since being injured Feb. 10. Bass, who missed seven games with a left knee strain, is expected to provide a mid-range shooting threat.

“He spreads the floor,’’ said coach Doc Rivers. “When you have Kevin and Brandon out for any stretch, it’s difficult offensively because the other team basically zones you up. They trap all over the floor because they know you don’t have any bigs who can stretch the floor.

“With Brandon or Kevin, that takes that defensive option away from other teams. I mean, you can guard Ray [Allen] or Paul [Pierce] when those two aren’t on the floor, because they just get trapped everywhere and they know, where are you going to swing the ball - to a big behind the three or to the elbows?

“They don’t worry about that when those guys are out. But when they’re on the floor, it creates great spacing for our team and we become a better offensive team.’’

Said Bass, “It felt good to be out there. I’ve probably got to get my conditioning up a little bit and get more in tune with the team, like I was before. Just got to get comfortable out there, that’s all. I’ll jump right in there and help, in some fashion.’’

Bass ended up with 12 points - he made his first five shots - and seven rebounds in Boston’s 86-83 victory.

No points, no worries

Rajon Rondo missed the Celtics’ first two games against the Cavaliers this season with a sprained wrist. He returned for this game but went scoreless with 11 assists.

He helped limit Kyrie Irving late in the game, though. Irving scored 24 points and has averaged 22.7 points in three games against the Celtics, who were unable to stifle him down the stretch in two previous games.

In the opening quarter last night, Rondo had six assists and Irving had 3 points and three assists. Irving would not record another assist, but he found his scoring touch, with 13 points in the third quarter before going 1 for 4 from the field in the final quarter.

“We played well as a team. It wasn’t pretty but we found a way and got the win,’’ Rondo said. “We just have to establish a presence, period. We’ve got some teams on our heels, this team in particular. I don’t really know the standings, I know it’s one or two games. So, we’ve got to try to get back on track somehow, follow up with another win [tonight].’’

Checking on O’Neal

Jermaine O’Neal’s wrist examination has been rescheduled for today. O’Neal sprained his left wrist against Dallas Feb. 20 and missed the Celtics’ visit to Oklahoma City Feb. 22. “I know he went home to get it evaluated and then they had to send him somewhere else,’’ said Rivers . . . Rivers had two words for Cleveland’s Anderson Varejao as Varejao walked past him after the Celtics’ win: “Thank you.’’ Varejao, who had 38 points and 29 rebounds in the first two games against the Celtics this season, missed last night’s game with a broken wrist. Former Celtic Semih Erden started at center for Cleveland . . . Entering the game, the Celtics were in eighth place in the Eastern Conference and had lost seven of eight. “We have a tough March, a lot of road games coming up,’’ Rivers said. “Cleveland is nipping at our heels, so is Milwaukee. We’re trying to catch guys in front of us. There’s only 34 games left, so it’s a sprint to the finish, nine weeks. I think everybody should come out with a great sense of urgency.’’ Asked if the Celtics can return to championship form, Rivers replied, “That’s something we’ll find out. I can’t tell you now, I think we can. It would be nice to be healthy and be consistent. A lot of that is injury, and some of that is us, too. It can’t just be injury. I think if we can get consistent, then your confidence grows, then I think yes. We have four guys who are really good, then we have a pretty good supporting cast around them.’’

Pleasure island

Allen, who led the Celtics with 22 points, had no regrets about missing the 3-point contest during All-Star Weekend. “They asked the week before,’’ he said. “But I needed the time off.’’ Allen traveled to the Bahamas with his family. “I went two years ago during the All-Star break, but this time I rented a house on the other side of the island,’’ Allen said. “It was perfect. I just played golf and sat around the house.’’

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

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