Garnett, Perkins return to Celtics practice


Garnett, Perkins return to Celtics practice

By A. Sherrod Blakely

WALTHAM The Boston Celtics saw something in practice Sunday they haven't seen all season - their usual starting five.

The only thing that could have potentially overshadowed Kevin Garnett going through his first full practice since suffering a muscle strain in his lower right leg on Dec. 29 at Detroit was the news that Kendrick Perkins was also able to participate in the Celtics' full contact practice.

It was the first time since Game Six of the NBA Finals last June that the C's had their normal starting five - Rajon Rondo, Ray Allen, Paul Pierce, Garnett and Perkins - all on the floor at the same time. In Game Six last June against the Los Angeles Lakers, Perkins suffered a torn MCL and PCL in his right knee.

Even though it has been several months since they were on the floor together, the chemistry was just as strong.

"You could just see it with our first unit," said coach Doc Rivers. "Today was the first time this year we had our real first unit on the floor. Today, offensively, it was another level. They could run anything they wanted. Everybody knew where everybody was at."

Perkins didn't waste much time getting back to doing the little things that have made him an important cog in the Celtics success.

During practice, Perkins hit teammate Marquis Daniels with a screen that forced Daniels to sit out the remainder of practice with a sore back. Daniels, who chuckled about it later, said the injury won't prevent him from playing against the Magic.

"I did hit him on the flat screen," said Perkins, also with a grin. "I told him, 'My bad.' He said it was a good pick, but I did catch him on the flat screen."

Perkins wasn't happy about the hit on his teammate. But he was happy about the fact that, after all these months sidelined while recovering from knee surgery, he was able to return and essentially do a number of the things he did prior to the injury.

While Perkins admits his timing is a little bit off, "it wasn't too bad. It was all right. I got a little winded, but I battled through it."

Rivers thought Perkins' practice was "phenomenal."

"Perk went through the whole practice," Rivers said. "Hell, he looked the best. I could make a case for playing him tomorrow, if anybody."

Before you run out and add Perkins to your fantasy league roster, however, Rivers was quick to add: "He will not play right away, obviously. First day for Perk live . . . phenomenal. He was great."

Perkins said he is targeting his return to be Feb. 4 against the Dallas Mavericks.

As for Garnett, being able to go through Sunday's practice bodes well for his chances of being on the floor Monday night against the Orlando Magic.

"I think Kevin will go tomorrow," Rivers said. "We went up and down a little harder on purpose, just to see how his body felt."

If Garnett feels good during the team's walkthrough prior to the game on Monday, he'll play.

But Rivers was quick to add the team will continue to err on the side of caution with all of their players, Garnett included.

"If there's anything not right about Garnett, he will not go," Rivers said.

Of course, not all the injury news for the Celtics was good on Sunday.

Shaquille O'Neal has an adductor strain in his right leg, and did not practice on Sunday. He is questionable for Monday's game.

The Celtics should know early this week whether Jermaine O'Neal plans to have surgery which could potentially keep him out for the rest of the season and some, if not all of the playoffs. O'Neal will head to New York to get a second opinion.

"I think we're leaning towards no surgery, obviously, if he wants to play," Rivers said. "But maybe someone can say he can do it and he can come back in four weeks, that would be different."

A. Sherrod Blakely can be reached at Follow Sherrod on Twitter at http:twitter.comsherrodbcsn

WATCH: Celtics vs. Cavs

WATCH: Celtics vs. Cavs

Tune into CSN to watch the Celtics host the Hawks at TD Garden. 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: C's have something to prove against best in the East

- 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

Celtics-Cavs preview: Something to prove against the best in East

Celtics-Cavs preview: Something to prove against the best in East

BOSTON – Brad Stevens has said on more than one occasion that the Boston Celtics’ record (38-22) is a bit better than their actual play.

While it may come across as exaggerated humility on Stevens’ part, the coach makes a very good point.

Despite Boston having the second-best record in the Eastern Conference, they have struggled mightily this season against the top-four teams in the East outside of themselves.

Boston will have a chance to rewrite at least one chapter in that narrative tonight when they host the defending NBA champion Cleveland Cavaliers.

Against the top-four teams in the East (Cleveland, Washington, Toronto and Atlanta), the Celtics are just 3-8 which falls short of how those teams have fared against one another this season.

The Cavs are 7-1 against the East’s top-4 clubs with the lone loss at Atlanta in November. Toronto (5-5) and Atlanta (4-4) have a .500 records against the top-4 while Washington (4-5) is just a game below-.500.

That’s why tonight’s game against Cleveland is so important to Boston.

It’s not just about beating the best team in the East.

For them, it’s about beating a good team, the kind of team that they have to get past in the postseason if they are to make the kind of deep playoff run that so many of the players have their sights set on.

Coming off of a 114-98 home loss to Atlanta, the Celtics know they have to play better – a lot better – to avoid losing a second game in a row, and four of their last five.

“They’re a good team,” said Boston’s Jaylen Brown. “If we’re not locked in, they’ll beat us worse than the Hawks. So we have to come out, execute, play harder, feed off the crowd and do our job. We should be victorious.”

That’s easier said than done, especially when you’re talking about a Cleveland team that’s truly built for the postseason.

That said, the Cavs are about as vulnerable to defeat now as they will be anytime this season.

All-Star forward Kevin Love is out until late March following “minor” surgery on his left knee.

“There’s definitely enough time to where I can get into a good rhythm,” Love told reporters earlier this week.

In addition to Love, the Cavs are also without J.R. Smith who underwent right thumb surgery in December that’s expected to keep him out until at least the middle of March.

Said Love, “I imagine between J.R. and myself, we’ll get out there and get our wind and be ready to go for (the playoffs) in April.”

Even without Love and Smith, Cleveland has plenty of firepower to remain the team to beat in the East.

It all starts with LeBron James who is averaging 25.7 points, 7.9 rebounds and a career-high 8.9 assists per game while shooting 54.1 percent from the field.

And then there’s Kyrie Irving who continues to play at a level which puts him among the best guards in the NBA. He’s averaging a career-high 24.6 points while dishing out 6.0 assists to go with 3.3 rebounds.

Tristan Thompson. Iman Shumpert. New guys Derrick Williams and Deron Williams.

Go down the line and it’s clear that the Cavs have elite talent and depth to which beating them, regardless of who may be missing in action, will not be easy.

Meanwhile, the Celtics have to simply do what they do best … only better.

“It’s going to be a tough one,” said Boston’s Isaiah Thomas. “We’ve got to make shots.”