By A. Sherrod Blakely
WALTHAM There's a very good chance that the Boston Celtics won't have to deal with New York Knicks point guard Chauncey Billups.
But is that really a good thing?
We have seen the Celtics face a Kevin Durant-less Oklahoma City team . . . and lose.
We have seen them not have to contend with Luis Scola of Houston . . . and lose.
There are a number examples of Boston losing to teams missing a key player.
That's why the idea of facing a New York team that won't have Billups, doesn't exactly provide the C's with any added confidence.
"For us, we have to be even more focused if Billups doesn't play," said Celtics forward Paul Pierce. "We haven't really done a good job when star players sit. Throughout the course of the season, we saw that opportunity many times and we lost those games."
Pierce has a few different theories as to why the Celtics seem to have problems in such games.
"I don't know if we take them for granted or taking them too lightly because they're missing a player, thinking that team wouldn't play as hard even if Chauncey plays or doesn't, Toney Douglas is more than capable."
Douglas has averaged a career-high 10.6 points per game this season.
More important, he has shown the ability to knock down clutch shots, like a 3-pointer in Game 1 that gave the Knicks a one-point lead in the final minute of play.
Coach Doc Rivers knows as well as anybody about the struggles his team has had against teams this year that were without a key performer.
Having that happen in the regular season, that's one thing.
In the playoffs?
"If you take anyone lightly in the playoffs, shame on you," Rivers said. "Everybody is capable of playing. Douglas has had a terrific year. They went on their stretch or streak, winning streak when Douglas was playing and Chauncey was out. So, I don't think that will affect how we'll approach the game. We have to worry about us."