Celtics hope thin bench can cool Heat

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Celtics hope thin bench can cool Heat

By A. Sherrod Blakely
CSNNE.com

WALTHAM You don't have to remind Boston Celtics coach Doc Rivers that he'll have nine, maybe 10 healthy players when the C's host the Miami Heat in a matchup between the top two teams in the East.

After the starting five, the Celtics bench includes Glen Davis, Von Wafer, Nate Robinson (maybe), Luke Harangody and Avery Bradley.

Let's face it.

The bottom of the barrel?

Yes, the C's are scraping it right now, hoping that someone, anyone, will step up on Sunday and help the C's get past a Miami Heat team that's playing great basketball right now.

Win or lose, Rivers will come away knowing more about his team than he did prior to tip-off.

"You get a reading from every game; it's a false reading, but it is a reading after that game," he said. "I don't think right now, anytime, means anything later except for that moment. You do get reads after each game; the things your team needs to work on."

For the C's, staying healthy might be a good starting point.

The latest roll call of injuries includes: Marquis Daniels (bruised spinal cord); Jermaine O'Neal (left knee), Shaquille O'Neal (right Achilles), Delonte West (broken right wrist), Semih Erden (groin).

Also, Robinson has a bruised right knee injury and did not practice on Saturday. However, the Celtics as well as Robinson are hopeful that he'll be able to play against the Heat.

Even with a less-than-ideal roster to work with, the Celtics aren't conceding anything to the Heat.

"You still want to win and prove to yourself that we're good enough," said C's guard Ray Allen. "That's not a bad mentality to have when it comes to any team that you play. Having that mentality, that underdog mentality you try and do everything you can to scrape and claw to get what you think is owed to you. So that's the mentality we have to have."

Boston's biggest issue with the lack of depth will be in their approach to defending LeBron James.

Because of his size, speed and strength, the C's anticipate racking up a lot of fouls trying to guard him.

However, the Celtics know that they no longer have that luxury due to all the banged up players.

In fact, Paul Pierce is the only healthy small forward on the Celtics roster. He'll be backed up by Von Wafer, a 6-5 shooting guard who has played the small forward position when one of his former teams, the Houston Rockets, were in a similar pinch because of injuries.

"I'm just going to try and hold my own. I got pride," Wafer said. "I'm just going to fight. If a guy makes a shot, he makes it."

Pierce's approach to playing the Heat can be summed up in three words: avoid foul trouble.

"When you're short-handed, the approach is to not get into foul trouble," Pierce said. "If I get in foul trouble, it's tough on us. Having lack of defenders on the perimeter, especially against LeBron being a 3-man and being a strong, athletic player not a lot of guys match up with him."

Added Rivers: "Paul will play as much as he can, and then we'll use someone else. But you don't guard LeBron with Paul or anyone else. You guard him with your team, anyway."

And when you throw in the fact that Dwyane Wade and Chris Bosh are meshing better with James, and the fact that a number of their role players are starting to fill the roles that they were brought in to fill, the Heat would be a stiff challenge for the Celtics even if the C's were at full strength.

But they're not, which is perfectly all right with Rivers who refuses to use the team's lack of depth as an excuse.

"Every game tells me about something that we need to do better," Rivers said. "I don't even look at injury part of that. I look at how the group is performing now."

A. Sherrod Blakely can be reached at sblakely@comcastsportsnet.com. Follow Sherrod on Twitter at http:twitter.comsherrodbcsn

Hoiberg: If there’s a Game 7, Rondo highly unlikely to play

Hoiberg: If there’s a Game 7, Rondo highly unlikely to play

CHICAGO – The Chicago Bulls had already ruled Rajon Rondo out for tonight’s pivotal Game 6 matchup against the Celtics.
 
If the Bulls managed to win tonight and force a winner-take-all Game 7 back in Boston, Chicago coach Fred Hoiberg said Rondo’s availability would still be highly unlikely.
 
The former Celtic suffered a fractured right thumb injury in Game 2 of this best-of-seven series and has not played since.
 
At the time of the injury, the Bulls had a 2-0 series lead with Boston bouncing back to win all three games since his absence.
 
When asked about what Rondo can do with his right hand, Hoiberg replied, “not much.”
 
Hoiberg added, “it’s pretty much the same. He still has a lot of soreness in that right hand, especially with everything he’s got going on with the torn ligament and the broken thumb. He’s just not able to do enough at this point.”
 
While his absence has certainly been felt on the floor, Rondo has been a steady focus of instruction and encouragement from the sideline.
 
“He’s doing as much as he can,” said Chicago’s Dwyane Wade.
 
In the games Rondo has been out, Wade said that Rondo holds his play cards in his suit jacket.
 
“So I go over to him over there, look at the play cards,” Wade said. “He’s doing everything from a standpoint as a leader, that you can do when you’re not out there with your guys. He’s in the locker room. He’s the one screaming, getting guys ready because he wants to be out there. His blood is boiling that he can’t be out there, but he’s helping guys. He’s doing his job as a leader.”
 
In the two playoff games Rondo has played, the four-time All-Star has averaged a near triple-double with 11.5 points, 10.0 assists and 8.5 rebounds per game.
 
Rondo isn’t the only key member of the Bulls who’s banged up.
 
Jimmy Butler, who scored a series-low 14 points in Chicago’s Game 5 loss, has been dealing with some knee soreness that doesn’t appear to be getting better anytime soon.
 
“He’s going to battle. That’s the one thing you know about Jimmy,” said Hoiberg who added that Butler did very little during the team’s morning shoot-around. “Jimmy is as well-conditioned as anybody in this game. He’s as big a competitor as anyone in this game. He does have soreness. There’s no denying that. But he’s going to continue to go out there and give everything he has.”
 
But at this point, that may not be enough for the Bulls in tonight’s elimination game.
 
They haven’t won a game in this series without Rondo who isn’t likely to play again this season, and their best player [Butler] is dealing with knee issues that we saw had a significant impact on his ability down the stretch in Game 5 [he took two shots in the fourth quarter and missed them both].
 
Regardless of what issues the Bulls might be dealing with, the Celtics know they can’t take tonight’s elimination game for granted.
 
“We just have to prepare to play the best that we've played yet,” said Celticscoach Brad Stevens. “That's the bottom line. I don't think there's a secret formula or magic to it. The magic's going to be in how you play. So our job is to prepare to play our best game that we've played yet.”

Does Bird’s departure put Celtics in better position for Paul George?

Does Bird’s departure put Celtics in better position for Paul George?

CHICAGO –  Larry Bird’s decision to walk away from the Indiana Pacers’ front office to become a consultant certainly sent shockwaves throughout the NBA landscape quickly.

And while it’s unclear exactly what it means to the Celtics and their pursuit this summer of Indiana All-Star Paul George, it does add an element of uncertainty as to the direction of the Pacers franchise.
 
At this point, that’s a good thing for the Celtics because Bird had made it clear both to the Celtics and to league sources that he was not interested in moving George anytime soon.
 
Of course, Indiana getting swept by the Cleveland Cavaliers in the first round of the playoffs may have eventually led Bird to soften his position if he, in fact, felt the Pacers were going to need to rebuild rather than re-tool.
 
And if you look at that team, the former seems to be a more likely scenario at this point, which could bode well for Boston.
 
But looking at the team Bird was going to have to re-make this summer, this move looks reminiscent to what the Celtics went through in 2013 when Danny Ainge traded away Kevin Garnett and Paul Pierce, and then-coach Doc Rivers made it clear that he did not want to start from scratch again.
 
Rivers had done that as the head coach of Orlando and did so with the Celtics prior to things coming together in 2008 when the franchise won its 17th NBA title.
 
Fast forward to the Pacers and Bird, who haven’t had that level of success since the Celtics legend took over the front office duties in Indiana.
 
The fact that he’s willing to remain a Pacers consultant speaks to his desire to still be in the game, which is what you would expect from one of the great competitors this league has ever seen.
 
And the naming of Kevin Pritchard to fill Bird’s role in the front office doesn’t hurt Boston, knowing Pritchard and Ainge have done deals with each other in the past when Pritchard was running the show in Portland.
 
Ultimately, it comes down to whether the Pacers have decided it’s time to move on from tweaking the roster and do what the Celtics did in 2013 and start over.
 
If they decide to go down that path, without question, the Celtics will be one of the first teams they have serious discussions with along those lines.
 
Teams that are looking to rebuild typically want draft picks and young veteran players – both of which the Celtics have more of than just about any team in the NBA.
 
And because most of the current Celtics have been involved in a winning culture, there are unspoken habits they bring to a franchise looking to re-establish its foundation.
 
For Boston, they land that much-coveted superstar that they desperately need to pair with Isaiah Thomas and Al Horford.
 
It sounds like a win-win for both franchises, right?