Garnett’s foot strain gives him a little pause

By Gary Washburn
Globe Staff / May 6, 2010

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WALTHAM — Celtics coach Doc Rivers began criticizing the schedule for this series the moment it was released. He noticed the three-day break between Games 2 and 3 of the Eastern Conference semifinals, giving his team almost too much time off.

With an aging, veteran team, Rivers should have known those three off days would come in handy. After taking Tuesday off, the Celtics returned to practice yesterday at Sports Authority Training Center with two-fifths of their starting lineup out.

Kevin Garnett suffered a strain in his right mid-foot during Monday’s Game 2 victory over the Cavaliers, while Kendrick Perkins hyperextended his right knee in that day’s shootaround, though he still managed to play.

Garnett reported to practice yesterday and wanted to partici pate, telling Rivers he felt better, but that did not convince the coach. Perkins suited up but did not participate in drills and eventually left for treatment. He returned to the court following the team’s workout and said he will be ready for Game 3 tomorrow.

“After the game Monday it was hurting, and even more when I woke up the next morning,’’ Perkins said. “It’s still a little sore in my hamstring area. I am glad we had a few days to rest and hopefully I’ll practice tomorrow. I’ll be ready for Friday. I am glad we have a few days to rest.’’

Garnett’s injury is the more serious of the two. He was hurt in the second quarter of Game 2 when Perkins backed into him while defending a drive by Anderson Varejao. Paul Pierce suffered a similar injury Feb. 1 against Washington and missed two games, but the Celtics are hoping the extra rest will make Garnett available for Game 3.

“Honestly, today, if we had a game, I don’t think he could have played,’’ Rivers said. “We just have to wait and I doubt he practices [today] and we’ll see. Perk will be all right.’’

The Celtics have dealt all season with odd injuries, such as Garnett’s hyperextended knee Dec. 28, sustained when he was kicked by Golden State’s Monta Ellis. Garnett missed the next 10 games.

“We were doing a lot of complaining and now it turns out the rest is good for everybody,’’ Rivers said. “Cleveland has a chance to get healthy and hopefully it’s good enough for us.’’

Perkins said he tweaked the knee simply running down the court. Still, his defense against Shaquille O’Neal has been effective. The Celtics have used Garnett and Perkins to plug up the middle and reduce the inside scoring of O’Neal, Antawn Jamison, and Anderson Varejao.

O’Neal hurt the Celtics in the fourth quarter of Game 1 but is 8 for 22 in the series and Perkins has limited his easy chances at the rim. If O’Neal gets even a few steps from a dunk, Perkins is helpless to stop the 325-pound train.

“The biggest thing with Shaq is, you don’t let him get deep post-ups,’’ Perkins said. “You try to fight him as much as you can and make him score over the top and no dunks, no layups. That’s the game plan.’’

When asked if O’Neal chatters during their matchup — which already has cost Perkins five stitches in his upper lip — Perkins said, “Nah, he doesn’t talk. Shaq really don’t talk. He just plays hard and just a big body that plays physical.’’

The Celtics are hoping the physicality of the first two games won’t cost them a starter, but they have been accustomed to playing shorthanded all season, so there is no sense of panic. Garnett has been remarkably healthy since the 10-game absence, playing in 39 straight before Rivers rested him for two of the final three regular-season games.

Rivers is cautious when it comes to injured players practicing, so keeping Garnett away was no surprise.

“This is just like a normal practice, not enough guys, that’s the way it’s been all year for us,’’ said Rivers. “It was an easy practice because we knew what we had.’’

The coach said he will have to lean more on the bench for support. Rasheed Wallace came off the bench for 17 points in Game 2.

“We need [Wallace] and [Glen Davis], we need our bench,’’ Rivers said. “Especially now with Kevin and Perk, but we needed them before that. Now we may them even more.’’

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