Paul Pierce certainly sent a shiver up coach Doc Rivers' spine when the Celtics captain came up limping with a few minutes left in Saturday's 94-82 win over the New Jersey Nets. Rivers quickly sent in Sasha Pavlovic to replace Pierce, who jogged gingerly to the bench but waved off head athletic trainer Ed Lacerte.
Pierce's injury was not much of an injury at all, Rivers said afterward, and Rivers did not seem to think Pierce would miss any time.
"He just stubbed his toe," Rivers said. "If there's anything, we'll shut him down, but we'll find that out in a little bit."
The Celtics are stepping lightly around their players' health this weekend as they play three road games in three nights. Saturday's game was the second stop on the trip before immediately heading off to Charlotte to take on the Bobcats on Sunday. After that, they get a whole day off before playing the Knicks in New York.
Rivers' assessment is not the final word. As the coach has said, Doc is just a nickname. Rivers has not seemed overly concerned with Ray Allen's ankle, yet the shooting guard has missed nine of the last 14 games. So what might be just a "stubbed toe" could turn out to be anything.
The Celtics survived another scary moment Wednesday when power forward Brandon Bass crumpled to the floor while clutching his knee in overtime against the Hawks. Like Pierce, Bass shrugged off his ailment, which he said was a hyperextension. Bass has played in both games since then, scoring 18 points and grabbing 11 rebounds against the Nets.
Down to only about eight reliable bodies heading into the postseason, the Celtics cannot afford a single serious injury in these final six games. Rivers would probably prefer it if his players would stop scaring him like that.