Presence of Ray Allen, Avery Bradley and Paul Pierce Provide Boost for Celtics, However Small

by NESN Staff

May 16, 2012

Presence of Ray Allen, Avery Bradley and Paul Pierce Provide Boost for Celtics, However SmallPHILADELPHIA — Ray Allen finds it hard to say no to a treadmill.

The Celtics shooting guard was in a conundrum when he encountered that piece of exercise equipment here, where the Celtics were due to take on the Sixers in Game 3 of the Eastern Conference semifinals on Wednesday. Allen, who is known to take hundreds of jump shots and run several miles every day when healthy, prudently did what most of us do: He decided to forgo the jog, just for one day.

"I was so tempted to get on that treadmill, but I said, 'Don't do it. Leave it alone,'" Allen said shortly before the Celtics' shootaround at the Wells Fargo Center. "I'm just focused on trying to play [Wednesday]."

With no more than one day off between the end of the last series and each of the first four games of this series, the Celtics face the challenge of nursing injuries to key players without the luxury of any sort of extended rest. Allen seemed to move better on his right ankle, relative to the last couple of weeks, in Game 2 on Monday, but Paul Pierce continued to be hampered by a combination of his sprained left knee and Andre Iguodala's stifling defense, and Avery Bradley had to leave the game when his shoulder popped out of its socket for at least the third time in the playoffs.

Celtics head coach Doc Rivers said he is not looking for, nor is he expecting, any of them to be at full strength, but he hoped Pierce could break out after shooting 5-for-20 in the first two games of the series.

"We need whatever he can give us," Rivers said, "Even if it's not 100 percent."

Although Allen, Bradley and Pierce seldom share time on the court — they played together only 211 total minutes during the regular season — their individual contributions have been affected by their injuries in various ways.

Allen's ability to cut and quickly balance his lower body, vital factors in a shooter getting good looks, have remained elite, but less so than before the bone spurs in his ankle began to bother him. Pierce has lacked lift on his jump shot, and Bradley has appeared to be less aggressive about driving to the hoop or reaching for loose balls on defense. He re-injured his shoulder on Monday when he absorbed some contact on that shoulder on a driving layup attempt.

Keyon Dooling has taken on some of Bradley's minutes as the designated backcourt stopper, and Mickael Pietrus scored eight points, his personal high for these playoffs, in Game 2. Pietrus has his own issues with his knee and hamstring, though, so Rivers' backup options may be just as uncertain as the conditions of his key players.

The two-day break that precedes Game 5, which was assured when the Sixers won on Monday, must look like an extended vacation to the Celtics. The only thing more important than wins for them right now may be rest. While the Celtics are looking for whatever their injured players can give them, the more those players can produce, the better off the team will be.

Have a question for Ben Watanabe? Send it to him via Twitter at @BenjeeBallgame or send it here.

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