Celtics hope thin bench can cool Heat

191544.jpg

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

Crowder on Wizards' all-black 'funeral' plans for Celtics: 'That's cute!'

Crowder on Wizards' all-black 'funeral' plans for Celtics: 'That's cute!'

The Washington Wizards plan to roll into tonight’s game against the Celtics donning all-black clothes, as in a funeral procession, a sign of solidarity and an omen of sorts for a game that they hope ends with them burying the Celtics.
 
When Jae Crowder was asked about the Wizards all-black gear, his initial response...“That’s cute!”
 
More than anything, the Wizards (24-20) are putting a significant amount of value into tonight’s game. A victory would extend their home winning streak to 14.

Meanwhile, the Celtics (26-17) come in looking to snap a two-game losing streak.
 
“This is definitely not Game 7 or the playoffs,” said Isaiah Thomas. “But if they want to take it that serious, they can.”
 
The idea to arrive at the Verizon Center donning all-black was hatched by Bradley Beal, who has some contentious moments, to say the least, with the Celtics recently.
 
Celtics coach Brad Stevens knows all about the funeral talk which to him is just that, talk. He’s more concerned with his team doing what they need to do in order to win.
 
Nothing more.
 
Nothing less.
 
“At the end of the day, good basketball teams are physical,” he said. “There’s a line you don’t want to cross. Ultimately, you have to be appropriately physical at a high level. It’s about playing well, focus on your next task at hand. This is a great opportunity to see where we’re at.”

In the Celtics' 117-108 win over the Wizards on Jan. 11, Beal was whistled for a flagrant-1 foul after getting into it with Marcus Smart.
 
Last season, Beal was on the receiving end of a left forearm to the face from Smart, who was driving to the basket at the time. The blow resulted in a broken nose for Beal in addition to spending time in the league’s concussion protocol program.
 
And then there’s his backcourt mate John Wall.
 
He was fined $15,000 for his role in a postgame incident with Jae Crowder (who was fined $25,000). Crowder pushed Wall’s nose with his finger, which led to Wall retaliating with a slap towards Crowder’s face.
 
And when the two met back on Nov. 9, Wall was hit with a flagrant-2 foul (an automatic ejection) when he threw Smart down hard to floor in the final moments of a Wizards win.
 
The Celtics have a few games that have become more physical than others recently, but there’s something about this Celtics-Wizards matchup that brings out an elevated level of feistiness.
 
“It’s just all talk; that’s all it is,” Thomas said. “I guess they taking it and running with it. I don’t know what it is. I [saw] the funeral and the all-black thing last night and I just laughed about it. We’ll be there tonight for a game, not a funeral.”
 

WATCH: Celtics vs. Wizards

WATCH: Celtics vs. Wizards

Tune into CSN to watch the Celtics play the Wizards in Washington. You can also click here to watch the Celtics livestream presented by McDonald's on the NBC Sports App. Coverage begins at 7 p.m. with Celtics Pregame Live Presented by ACE Ticket.

- Game Preview: Rivalry in the making?

- Channel Finder: Make sure you know where to watch

[SHOP: Gear up, Celtics fans!]

- Live Extra FAQ: All your questions answered

- Latest on the Celtics: All of the most recent news and notes

- Talk about the game via social media on CSN's Pulse, presented by Ford