"It feels like I can play [Saturday]," Pierce said.
That is essentially what it comes down to as the Celtics prepare for Game 1 of their Eastern Conference semifinal series on Saturday against the Philadelphia 76ers. Pierce is one of a number of key players for Boston dealing with injuries, with a couple of those injuries of the career-altering variety.
Pierce has a sprained medial collateral ligament in his left knee. Ray Allen has bone spurs in his right ankle. Avery Bradley has a sore rotator cuff in his left shoulder. Mickael Pietrus has been bugged by one of his hamstrings since Game 2.
All of them are at least game-time decisions for Saturday's game. Pierce admitted he was sore and tired after checking the Atlanta Hawks' Joe Johnson for much of the closeout game of their first-round series, and Allen admitted he had trouble gaining stability on his sore ankle in that game. Pietrus has not been the same since his injury, and Bradley's shoulder needs rest that will not come until the Celtics' season is over, whenever that may be. Each is recuperating gradually, if at all.
"You can make any injury worse by playing," Pierce shrugged. "That's the nature of the beast. We all have injuries."
Yet none were ready to rule themselves out against the Sixers.
"It's a little sore, but I'll be ready," Bradley said at Friday's practice. "It'll be all right."
Allen's condition may be of the greatest concern, if only because he missed the most time with the injury before returning in Game 3 against the Hawks. He compared the discomfort in the ankle Friday to the discomfort he felt two weeks ago — when, as Celtics fans might remember, he was not able to play.
"This whole last week and a half, I've been day to day," Allen said. "I've had some great days, and now I'm back to being somewhat where I was two weeks ago, so I'm just working through that."
The Sixers are considered the underdog in the series due to their youth and their inconsistent offense. They are all more or less healthy, though, and that is something the Celtics cannot cancel out with finals experience and championship rings.
Boston's wounded may not feel outstanding, but they feel they can play. That may have to be enough for the Celtics.
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