By A. Sherrod Blakely
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."