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Pietrus feeling playful

Swingman back from concussion

Barry Chin/Globe StaffAn enthusiastic Mickael Pietrus points to his jersey after burying a 3-point shot in front of Atlanta’s Ivan Johnson. Barry Chin/Globe StaffAn enthusiastic Mickael Pietrus points to his jersey after burying a 3-point shot in front of Atlanta’s Ivan Johnson. (Barry Chin/Globe Staff)
By Amalie Benjamin
Globe Staff / April 12, 2012
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The question was whether Mickael Pietrus would make it back at all, for the regular season or the playoffs. That was far from assured after he suffered a concussion March 23 that left the normally ebullient Celtics swingman feeling severe effects - including light sensitivity - that left him unable to do much of anything.

“I’m very blessed to play from where I came from,’’ Pietrus said before suiting up for Wednesday night’s game against the Hawks at TD Garden. “It wasn’t easy for me. It’s been a very tough two weeks. But hopefully I’ll be able to help my team again.’’

Pietrus sustained the frightening injury in a game in Philadelphia against the 76ers. He was taken from the court on a stretcher, and it was uncertain when he would be able to contribute to the Celtics again.

But on Wednesday, he was cleared to play, and he entered the game with 3:22 to go in the first quarter, earning a standing ovation from the Garden crowd. He got another round of applause went he left midway through the second quarter after scoring 3 points and grabbing one rebound.

And while coach Doc Rivers had estimated that Pietrus would play between 5-10 minutes, Pietrus played 29 minutes, scoring 8 points and grabbing 6 rebounds in the Celtics’ 88-86 overtime win.

President of basketball operations Danny Ainge had called Rivers Wednesday and said that Pietrus had tired after two minutes in a workout the day before, so Rivers hadn’t expected much. And yet Pietrus didn’t give his coach reason to take him out.

“He looked great,’’ Rivers said. “I turned to [trainer] Eddie [Lacerte] and Eddie said, ‘No, go, he’s fine.’ You could see pretty much right away, I was going to take him out after about three minutes. But he looked great.

“He never looked over and said he was tired. Maybe he’s been working out on the sly and we never knew it.’’

Pietrus said after the game that he felt “great,’’ and that he knew the team needed him to bring energy on the second night of a back-to-back in two different cities.

“I was laid up for two weeks,’’ he explained before the game. “Didn’t do much. I was trying to watch TV. I could not do anything physically.

“It’s not like an injury like you hurt your knee or your ankle or something like that. It’s your brain. You’ve got to get your brain right, because that’s basically your life.’’

Still, he was able to joke that he was “just trying to get my brain right. Just take the brain out, make it lift weights, put it on the treadmill, put it back in. Fix it.’’

Pietrus hadn’t been able to play any five-on-five in practice before Wednesday. He had played one-on-one, but he didn’t know exactly how he would react to game action. He seemed to react well, even when he fell on the Garden floor and bounced back up.

“This is good for him to ease him in instead of just throwing him in,’’ Rivers said before the game. “So that’s how we’re going to do it. All the doctors have cleared him. Once I hear that, he’s ready to play.’’

Rivers said he had expected to lose Pietrus for the season. But in the last week, Pietrus made significant progress, something that left the coach “very surprised.’’

He passed all the tests required by the league, and got the approval that he wanted.

Pietrus tried to stay positive throughout his time off the court, hoping he would get back this season, that he would be able to contribute to another quest for a championship. He didn’t want to think any other way.

He clearly was back to his usual self Wednesday, saying he was moving so well he could do the “Dougie’’ and talking about his love of eating chicken feet.

“It was scary,’’ Pietrus said. “It could have been different for me. Today I’m very happy that I’m here.

“It’s been a tough two weeks for me not being able to do much, just get a lot of texts from people supporting me, from my fans, thanks on Twitter.

“I’m just happy. Hopefully I get my smile back, get my game back, and everybody’s happy.’’

Amalie Benjamin can be reached at abenjamin@globe.com. Follow her on Twitter @amaliebenjamin.

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