Rondo injury puts weight back on Pierce's, Garnett's shoulders

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Rondo injury puts weight back on Pierce's, Garnett's shoulders

TORONTO Paul Pierce and Kevin Garnett are by anyone's definition, the graybeards of this Boston Celtics team.

And yet as they look to get their season back on track, no Celtics players seem to be carrying more of the load than those two.

At a time when their NBA contemporaries are adapting to a diminished role as bit players, these two continue to take center stage. And their efforts have not been in vain, not with the Celtics riding a four-game winning streak heading into Wednesday's game at Toronto.

Boston's bevy of guards have stepped up in absence of Rajon Rondo (torn right ACL, out for the season). But the play of Garnett and Pierce has been just as important.

"I'm having fun," said Pierce. "I'm playing a game I enjoy playing. My responsibility has always been heavy since I put on a Celtics uniform."

But lately, Pierce has been called upon to not just be the C's best scorer, but also impact the game as a passer and on the boards.

During the four-game winning streak, Pierce has averaged 17.3 points which is a slight dip from his scoring average this season. But his rebounds (9.8) and assists (6.3) during that span are both significantly up, which is exactly what the Celtics want - and need - from the Captain.

As for Garnett, his play is not only appreciated by his teammates but also by fans across the globe which is evident by them voting him in as a starter in the Feb. 17 All-Star game in Houston.

Known for his ability to impact the game in just about every area, he has indeed been Boston's Mr. Everything during their current winning streak.

In the last four games, Garnett has averaged 15.8 points, 8.8 rebounds, three assists, 1.8 steals and 1.5 blocks per game.

Such across-the-board production is impressive for any player in the NBA, let alone a 36-year-old like Garnett who continues to defy Father Time and play at a relatively high level.

"It's what it is," Garnett said. "Both of us have been in this league; we've had a lot of responsibility. It's kind of fell on our shoulders."

At the start of the season, there was a concerted effort on the part the Celtics - Pierce and Garnett included - to make it known that this was Rondo's team. But with Rondo out for the rest of the season, there was indeed an increase in responsibility both on and off the floor, placed on the shoulders of Garnett and Pierce.

"This is familiar territory for the both of us," Garnett said. "We don't really have a choice but to pick it up."

Garnett added, "other than that, just trying to make sure everybody plays the right way, lead the right way and be the example of everybody."

Celtics coach Doc Rivers acknowledges that Pierce is being asked to do more for the team with Rondo out. It hasn't resulted in more minutes played, however, which has been something Rivers has been monitoring all season.

This season, Pierce is averaging 33.7 minutes per game. During the team's four-game winning streak, Pierce's minutes are up to 36.3 which includes a double-overtime win over Miami in which he played a season-high 49 minutes.

As for Garnett, his minutes have also remained relatively the same (30.1 this season, 31 in last four games) during the team's winning streak even as the responsibilities for both him and Pierce have been on the rise.

"That's not that taxing," Rivers said when asked about their increased responsibility. "Hell, you're going to play basketball. You might as well be responsible for it."