Rivers hoping for a healthier outlook
The Celtics took command of their first-round playoff series with a 101-79 victory over the Hawks Sunday night. But there are questions about the availability of Ray Allen, Avery Bradley, Paul Pierce, and Mickael Pietrus for Game 5 in Atlanta on Tuesday.
Allen (right ankle) seems to be among the healthier Celtics, though he missed 11 straight games before returning for Game 3. Bradley (left shoulder) struggled with his shooting (2 for 7) and was limited to 19 minutes Sunday. Pierce (knee) was injured in a walkthrough during the team’s Sunday morning shootaround, and spent most of the game in the locker room, riding an exercise bike, and on the bench, producing 24 points in a 17-minute stint. Pietrus (hamstring) went for 13 minutes, committing four personal fouls.
“We had a lot of stuff going on,’’ coach Doc Rivers said. “You may not have noticed, or noticed - but we had a lot of things going on on our bench with bodies. You know, [Pietrus], we had to take him out. Avery’s shoulder, Paul’s knee, Ray’s foot. The whole game you just felt like - I mean, you just kept looking down there. Was there enough guys to put in the game, at one point. So I was really happy that everybody kept their focus through all the stuff that [trainer] Ed Lacerte had to do on the bench.’’
Pierce appeared to aggravate the injury after stepping on Atlanta forward Josh Smith’s foot with 5:45 remaining in the opening half.
“I have no idea,’’ Rivers said, when asked if Pierce will play Tuesday. “You know, with a couple of guys - actually three of them - we literally don’t know.
“When I left shootaround, I probably thought [Pierce] was not going to play. I talked to him right before the game. He said, ‘Well, let me just try to warm it up and see how I feel.’
“It’s amazing. I mean, honestly, he was just dribbling the ball and went to the floor in shootaround. We were walking. You know, that’s how you felt - like, my gosh. And, honestly, when he went down, it didn’t look good. So, the fact that he could come in and play, and then play the way he played, was great.’’
Shouldering the load
Bradley is the youngest Celtic and he has probably been the team’s healthiest and most resilient performer this season. But Bradley, 21, who led the team with 64 games played during the regular season, was only given the go-ahead to be in the starting lineup less than an hour before the game.
“It’s a concern tonight and moving forward, as well,’’ Rivers said before the win. “We’re going to throw him out there and see how it feels. We had the doctors out watching him warm up and they said his jump shot looked good.”
Bradley (6 points) attempted several shots, then went to the locker room along with Dr. Brian McKeon, then returned to complete a 50-jumper warm-up. Bradley committed two early fouls defending against Jeff Teague and left the contest after being fouled from behind on a fast break by Smith.
“It’s happened three or four times,’’ Rivers said of Bradley’s shoulder. “That’s the only scary part - when it’s gone out [of the socket] it’s gone back in. And every time it goes out you lose strength.’’
Allen recovered from a 36-minute-plus return in the Celtics’ 90-84 overtime win Friday, his first appearance after missing 11 games.
“I told you, like I said last game, I feel surprisingly great,’’ Allen said after scoring 12 points in 19 minutes Sunday night. “I got in foul trouble, so it was almost if, the way the game was going, we had pretty good control of it. So, that time on the bench was good. But at the same time, I worried about getting tight. So, it was good we played the way we did early.’’
Painful to talk about
The Celtics have noted the injury problems of other teams.
The Bulls have lost Derrick Rose and Joakim Noah and the Knicks’ Baron Davis sustained a knee injury Sunday.
“In my 28 years, whatever I’ve been in the league, it really is fragile and you can never take anything for granted,’’ said Rivers. “I tell our young guys that every day - how fragile the season is for a team. It doesn’t take much. It can be injuries, it can be attitude - it doesn’t take much to sink a team. You’ve got to just try to take advantage of it.
“[The Bulls are] the No. 1 seed and they don’t have their No. 1 player. It’s more difficult - it’s like us when Kevin [Garnett] went down [during the 2008-09 season]. We kind of righted the ship and then you got in the playoffs and you realized Kevin’s down. It really is a difference, there’s no doubt about that.’’
Said Allen, “I haven’t seen [this many] injuries. When you think about it, going through the regular season going into the playoffs it doesn’t have that 1-8 [seeded teams] feel to it. Derrick Rose and now Noah going out, so now you almost expect Philly to win it.
“Injuries, you can’t control that, so you hope your other guys step up and play well. Chicago has done a great job all year, look at what they were able to accomplish without Derrick in the lineup.
“They have a great team system, but there comes a point in the game, in the series, where your best players have to step up and make plays.
“We just saw Baron go down, and that was excruciating to watch. When Noah went down I turned my head. You don’t wish that on anybody.’’
Frank Dell’Apa can be reached at email@example.com.