|Celtics forward Paul Pierce slices to the basket in the second quarter for a hoop and a foul on the Kings’ Francisco Garcia. (Yoon S. Byun/Globe Staff)|
Jermaine O’Neal must take a seat
Center’s balky left knee acts up again
For the second time in a week, Jermaine O’Neal’s surgically repaired left knee swelled up, this time forcing the Celtics center to sit out last night’s game against the Kings at TD Garden. It was the 21st missed game of the season for O’Neal, his first since returning to the lineup Christmas Day against the Magic.
After dealing with swelling during a loss in Dallas Nov. 8, O’Neal sat out for six weeks. In 10 games since returning to the lineup, and with little practice time, O’Neal had played well. But he had to leave last Friday’s win over Raptors, calling it a “precautionary’’ measure.
Coach Doc Rivers said he didn’t know whether O’Neal would ultimately require surgery.
“I’m concerned,’’ Rivers said. “I think he’s gone two weeks and a practice and his knee swells up. First of all, it has to be extremely frustrating for him. He worked his butt off to get back and he was playing well.
“Secondly, we all have common sense. That’s a concern, ‘Why is this happening?’ And so we have to figure that out.’’
Having shut down O’Neal once already, Rivers didn’t seem as though he wanted to do it again.
“We’ve done that and we thought we were good, and it happened again,’’ Rivers said. “I don’t know. I don’t have any answers. I just know this has to be frustrating.’’
The Celtics have used different options with O’Neal out. Shaquille O’Neal carried the load originally, and Semih Erden saw increased minutes.
“I wasn’t prepared for this one,’’ Rivers said. “But once you hear it, then you’re prepared. You keep Semih and Luke in at practice actually more than we keep the other guys in because you know [Jermaine] and Shaq, they can get up and not feel great and they could miss a game. You just want them to have as much rhythm as possible.’’
Garnett delayed Though the Celtics expected Kevin Garnett (strained calf) to return this week, the target date has been pushed back to Monday against the Magic. Garnett has missed eight straight games.
The Celtics will practice today, then play the Bobcats tomorrow, and with two off days after that, Rivers wants to take advantage of the extra down time.
“My thinking right now, unless he comes out tomorrow and practices the whole practice and looks great, it’s probably off Friday too, and then [play] Monday,’’ said Rivers.
There was a small possibility of Garnett playing last night, but Rivers said trainer Ed Lacerte advised him to keep Garnett off the floor for a couple more days.
“It’s just taking a little bit longer than we wanted it to,’’ Rivers said, “but it’s not a big deal.’’
Up the charts With the 119-95 win over the Kings, Rivers passed K.C. Jones for third on the Celtics’ all-time list with 309. Having gone through trying seasons, including a 24-win campaign his third year in Boston, he was happy about the milestone.
“I don’t know what that means,’’ Rivers said. “It’s awesome, I guess. I just don’t know what that means yet, because I’m not thinking about it much. I’m not done. But it’s nice.
“We were bad for two years and [Danny Ainge] stuck with me and believed in me. So at the end of the day, it’s Danny Ainge, not me.’’
Rivers might catch Tommy Heinsohn (427) for the No. 2 slot, but probably not Red Auerbach, who had 795 wins.
“That ain’t gonna happen,’’ Rivers said. “I can guarantee you that.’’
Erden’s time now The 33 minutes Erden played were his most in nearly a month. He played 24 minutes against the Hawks, then injury (shoulder), sickness (upper respiratory infection), and coaching decisions kept him out of the lineup.
Filling in for Jermaine O’Neal, he scored 10 points and grabbed nine rebounds, finishing just short of his first double-double.
Rivers had gone to Luke Harangody in recent weeks over Erden because of Harangody’s energy in practice.
“He’s a rookie,’’ Rivers said of Erden. “He’s learning that the NBA is a hard league, and you have to play hard every night.’’
Collision course Referee Bob Delaney was sandwiched between two Celtics and a King at one point and went down at halfcourt. He stayed there for a few seconds, getting attention from Lacerte before getting up and continuing to officiate the game. “I thought he was hurt pretty bad,’’ Rivers said. “I told him he was tougher than I thought. He was a tough cop, but I didn’t know he could hang in there. I was very proud of Bob Delaney tonight.’’ . . . Shaquille O’Neal earned his second technical foul of the season, arguing with Delaney after being whistled for an offensive foul trying to finish off a lob pass from Rajon Rondo. O’Neal was fined $35,000 for mocking Delaney after the Celtics’ loss to the Magic on Christmas Day . . . Paul Pierce’s 15 first-quarter points were the second-most by a Celtic in a quarter this season behind the 16 Nate Robinson scored in Toronto starting in place of Rondo for the first time.
Stuck on runway The storm that rocked the region made getting to town a nightmare for the Kings, who after losing, 136-133, in overtime to the Wizards Tuesday night, spent two hours on the runway in Washington. They did not arrive in Boston until 4 a.m. yesterday. “We were sitting there for a while,’’ rookie center DeMarcus Cousins said. “I really didn’t know what was going on. I didn’t think we were going to get in until the next day.’’ There was concern that if the Kings had waited until yesterday morning to fly, they wouldn’t have made it. “It wasn’t that easy,’’ said center Samuel Dalembert. “You’ve just got to do it. It’s the life of the NBA. It was a long game and then we had to sit on the runway. There was a concern taking off over there, how bad it was going to be. But we got here safe. Most importantly, we’re safe.’’ . . . Exactly a year removed from the earthquake that devastated his homeland, the Haitian-born Dalembert said he had more than 15 text messages when he woke up yesterday morning. Even though there’s been progress in the area, normalcy is still a long way away, with recovery projects being held up because of red tape. “You wish you could do something real nice for people, due to the fact that things cannot get there,’’ he said.
Julian Benbow can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org; Gary Washburn of the Globe Staff contributed to this report.