On Wednesday night, the Celtics found out what life is like without two-thirds of the Big Three. They found out what it's like to be a team with just one superstar (Ray Allen), and what it's like to be just another average team.
The Celtics' injuries are piling up, and nobody exposed that better than the Suns.
Last season, the C's faced a situation similar to the one they are facing now, when the injury bug ravaged their lineup and left them vulnerable down the stretch and into the postseason.
Without Paul Pierce, the Celtics dropped two straight games to inferior competition in the Clippers and the Warriors. Without both Pierce and Kevin Garnett, they lost a third straight — in humiliating fashion — to the Suns. Toss in the injuries that have sidelined Glen Davis and Marquis Daniels, and it's no wonder why Brian Scalabrine and Shelden WIlliams combined for 42 minutes on Wednesday night.
Pierce missed Boston's entire 1-3 road trip due to a knee infection, but it wasn't until the tail end of the trip that Garnett's hyperextended knee became an issue.
"I didn't like the way he ran in the second half of the Clipper game," Celtics head coach Doc Rivers told The Boston Globe of Garnett. "That's when I started watching it. That was the first I noticed anything."
Against Phoenix, Garnett was held out of the lineup along with Pierce at a time when Rajon Rondo could have also used a night off.
Rondo has been favoring a strained left hamstring, though his recent stats would suggest otherwise. The point guard still started on Wednesday as a crucial chunk of the Celtics roster sat out.
"I'm actually far more concerned about that than Kevin," Rivers told the Globe of Rondo. "Kevin, I'm shutting down, but Rondo, I am watching closely because a hamstring injury is a tough injury."
Rondo still put up 13 points in 32 minutes on Wednesday, despite the nagging injury and a backup surrounding cast. But the Celtics ended up losing their third game in four days, and things won't get easier with another three-game road trip waiting for them next week.
The three-game losing streak has dropped the Celtics to second in the Eastern Conference standings, as they are now tied with the Magic at 23-8. However, being just 1 1/2 games back in the league is a small price to pay at this point in the season, given their current injury report.
"Someone said, 'Are you being too cautious?'" Rivers told the Globe. "Probably. But I would rather be safe than sorry."
And he's right. It's better to be safe in December than sorry in April.
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