WALTHAM -- There were many questions raised about why Paul Pierce failed to launch a shot in the final seconds of the Celtics' 96-95 loss to Golden State Wednesday night. Those questions were answered yesterday as Pierce arrived at practice on crutches and with a protective boot on his left foot.
Pierce was diagnosed with inflammation of the tissues and muscles of his foot and is expected to be out of the lineup a minimum of two weeks and possibly as long as a month. The condition, called a stress reaction, is often a precursor to a stress fracture, but Pierce's foot is not broken.
"[Pierce] told me he didn't feel he could push off," coach Doc Rivers said of Pierce's inability to shoot. "I wish he had told me [Wednesday night], but that's who he is and that's a good thing.
"Players always think they can work through it. I've done it. A minute before you can't move but in crunch time you can. It was the strangest thing I've ever seen and now we know why."
The injury was revealed by an MRI before practice. Pierce appeared about an hour into the training session, which concluded with a four-on-four, halfcourt game because less than half the team was available to practice at full speed. Ryan Gomes and Delonte West received excused absences but are expected to be in the lineup tonight against Philadelphia.
Pierce said he likely will not travel with the team for a road trip starting Tuesday in Denver.
"It's been bothering me the past week and I just couldn't deal with it anymore," Pierce said. "I need to stay off it for a couple of weeks and see how it feels. There is pretty much no treatment for it, so I just have to rest and see what happens.
"The first time I felt it was in Charlotte [Dec. 16]. After the game [against Golden State] it got to the point where I just couldn't take it anymore. I just couldn't bear it. As the game went on it hurt more and more but I thought I would just play through it. There is nothing you can do about it except play through it, but it got worse and worse.
"I felt it last week and I mentioned it [to Rivers], but I thought I could play through it. I've played through so many injuries and I thought this would wear off. I mentioned that it hurt just to make [Rivers] aware there was something going on. I wasn't worried about it but then it got to the breaking point."
Pierce scored 38 points in a 119-114 win over Denver Dec. 15 and 35 points in a 106-100 win at Charlotte the next night. Pierce had 27 points as he posted up near the foul line with 20 seconds remaining against the Warriors, but as defenders surrounded him in the closing seconds, Pierce failed to pass, shoot, or call a timeout, resulting in a jump ball with less than a second remaining.
"We found out 10 minutes before practice," Rivers said. "If it's 2-3 weeks, that would be great, if that's all it is. We have so many guys out I don't think I've ever seen anything like this, ever. But I believe in the guys. It's not [like] we're going to roll the ball out and lay down. We are going to be a post and pick-and-roll team exclusively. The motion stuff we run to get Paul open . . . we are doing this on the fly.
"Obviously, it's a terrible blow to us and the timing of it is just as we are going to the West Coast. There is nothing to do about it except for the guys to pick it up and keep our head above water. Without [Pierce] and Wally [Szczerbiak], that's 50 points out of our offense."
Pierce said the injury likely would not have been detected by an MRI last week because it was not yet severe enough.
"I noticed it [against] Denver that he was limping a little bit and I asked him about it in Charlotte," Rivers said. "He rarely says anything about injuries.
"We gear our offense through Paul and Wally and Al [Jefferson]. Paul is the guy and, unfortunately, guys are going to find out how difficult it is. He garnered so much attention and that opens it up for Wally. It's going to be more difficult for Al, they are going to throw the kitchen sink at him. Everyone is going to go at him. But if there is a silver lining, they will have to learn how to deal with this."
Michael Olowokandi (abdominal strain) practiced but will not play tonight, Rivers said. Kendrick Perkins (plantar fasciitis) was at practice but did not participate in full-speed drills . . . A team of Gerald Green, Jefferson, Allan Ray, and Rajon Rondo scrimmaged against Tony Allen, Olowokandi, Leon Powe, and Sebastian Telfair to conclude practice . . . Szczerbiak (right ankle sprain) could return for the road trip.
Frank Dell'Apa can be reached at email@example.com.