Celtics Show Heart, But Buried By Wounded Knees
BOSTON - Celtics Director of Player Development Mike Crotty keeps a pair of high tops at the office in Waltham. He's probably going to need them on Thursday for practice.
Hours after the news came down that Delonte West and Wally Szczerbiak were officially out for Wednesday's game against the Pacers, the Celtics were taking Tony Allen and Brian Scalabrine to New England Baptist Hospital for MRIs on injured knees, and the game wasn't even over.
Celtics Trainer Ed Lacerte and Coach Doc Rivers check on Tony Allen after he injures his knee in the third quarter against the Pacers.
Undermanned, the Celtics fell to the Indiana Pacers 97-84 at the TD Banknorth Garden.
While Scalabrine injured his right knee in the second quarter and left the floor under his own power, Allen went down in a heap with 3:01 remaining in the third after a dunk attempt went bad and he came down awkwardly on his left leg. Allen dropped to the floor and clutched his knee as he rolled on the parquet, and was helped off the floor by teammates.
"This is terrible. Right now I can't tell you what we're going to do," said Celtics Coach Doc Rivers after the game. "As a coaching staff we've got to really put our heads together and figure out a way to play without all of these guys."
"I've never seen anything like this. I really haven't. Up until this game I thought we could get through some of this. This one is a tough one," Rivers said.
Late Wednesday night, there was no official word on the severity of the injuries, but given that Allen was carried off the floor, his injury is presumably more serious than that of Scalabrine. Allen, who was asking for an iPod charger before the game as he skipped around the locker room preparing to play, was in the midst of a high-energy, 19-point, five-steal effort when the injury occurred.
The Celtics already have had more than their fair share of injuries, with Paul Pierce still out thanks to a stress reaction, Wally Szczerbiak dealing with ankle and left knee ailments, and Delonte West coping with a bad back after a few hard falls to the floor in recent games. The Celtics used their 11th different starting lineup (Telfair, Allen, Green, Jefferson, Perkins) in 34 games on Wednesday, and will undoubtedly resort to yet another on Friday when the Raptors come to town.
Afterward, Allen's teammates were down about the latest batch of injuries, but vowed to press on and stressed the need for unity.
"TA is real important to us now. To see him go down, it hurts," said Al Jefferson. "I feel like this is a test from the basketball gods. We've just got to stick together."
Allen appeared to be all but fully recovered from his last knee injury and had started to emerge as the Celtics' emotional leader according to Rivers. Allen had seemingly taken the mantle as the team's offensive leader as well; he'd scored 20-plus points in the team's last six games, and had really become a focal point of the Celtics' attack.
"We've just got to pull it together as a unit even tighter," forward Ryan Gomes said. "He was a leader and now someone else has to step in and lead this team to wins until guys get healthy."
Pierce Still Booting Up
As for those on the mend, the pre-game injury report wasn't much rosier. Pierce was evaluated Wednesday by Dr. Brian McKeon, and he will stay in his protective boot for at least another week, at which point he will be re-evaluated. While the team was originally projecting January 19 as the earliest possible date that Pierce would return to basketball activities, the latest evaluation would suggest that he'll have a longer road back, but there is no official timetable on a return.
"That's going to push it back a little bit," said Rivers.
According to Rivers, Szczerbiak will miss "probably the next week" with a sore left knee, and West will probably sit out a few more games as well with a bruised lower back, according to Wednesday's box score.
"You know it's bad when Delonte comes to you," Rivers said before Wednesday's game. After the game, Rivers noted that West changed his tune after seeing Allen and Scalabrine go down and claimed to his coach that he'd be ready to go on Friday. Whether he'll actually play is still another story.
You have to like the spirit of the Celtics' walking wounded, but right now their luck couldn't get much worse.