BOSTON — The look on Doc Rivers' face was enough to make a diehard Celtics fan's heart stop. When Rivers looked down at his starting power forward, Brandon Bass, crumpled underneath the Atlanta Hawks' basket and clutching a certain part of his body, he feared the absolute worst.
"I thought he was hurt," Rivers said. "I've had that injury. We know the one I'm talking about. I don't even like saying the word, where he was grabbing."
The body part Bass was grabbing was the, um, hinge between the upper part of the leg and the lower part, if you catch the drift. Rivers probably saw the Celtics' season flash before his eyes.
Bass eventually stood up, gingerly at first and then with more confidence, and finished off the final minutes of a 21-point, 10-rebound performance in the Celtics' 88-86 overtime win over the Hawks on Wednesday. He later said he had only hyperextended the knee, and declared himself fine.
In those much-too-long minutes on the ground, though, he was far from fine.
"I felt like a little kid," Bass said. "I was just scared. I didn't know what had happened, and it hurt so bad. I think that was because I tensed up. Once I started to breath and relax, everything started calming done fine."
Make no mistake, at this point in the season the loss of Bass — or any frontcourt player, for that matter — would crush whatever slim championship hopes the Celtics possess. Bass has been a lifesaver for the Celtics, filling in ably for more than 30 minutes a game as the starting "four" even though he originally was brought in to play only about 20 minutes per game as a backup.
Kevin Garnett, who had fouled out, watched from the Celtics bench as the player who most often flanks him in the post writhed in pain. Garnett has had an injury to that body part, which required surgery in 2009, and was glad to see Bass eventually get up.
"Scary moment," Garnett said. "B.B.'s a tough guy. We've known that since day one. We're just glad he was able to overcome that and be healthy."
As soon as Bass took a few stable steps, the other Celtics began to joke. He ended up playing more than 42 minutes in the game, only 24 hours removed from playing 39 minutes in Tuesday's win over the Heat, and his teammates ribbed him for just needing an excuse for a rest.
Following the two-point win, the inhabitants of the Celtics locker room were all smiles. For a moment, though, everyone wearing green received a reminder of how tenuous their current run is, and how many more things need to fall Boston's way for this run to continue.