A good time for a break
Pierce, Allen, and Rondo all nicked
MIAMI — It was hard to keep track of the bodies going back and forth from the bench to the locker room.
“We had a circus going on at one point,’’ said Celtics coach Doc Rivers.
Paul Pierce had to leave in the first quarter of the Celtics’ 102-91 loss to the Heat in Game 2 of the Eastern Conference semifinals after being kicked in the Achilles’.
Ray Allen left late in the third quarter after taking an elbow from LeBron James that left him with a bruised chest.
Rajon Rondo was wearing a heat pack on his back at the shootaround, and when it tightened up on him in the second half, he asked to come out.
Three-fifths of the starting lineup was banged up at different points and Rivers was searching for healthy options.
“It was sketchy,’’ he said. “For me, it was tough because I didn’t know who was healthy, who felt good out there.’’
Pierce and Allen essentially turned into decoys, setting picks to try to get Rondo and Delonte West going.
Pierce played 33 minutes and scored 13 points on 5-of-11 shooting. He said he was largely unaffected once he returned.
“When you strain your Achilles’, it’s like every step it’s just a slight little pain in there,’’ he said. “But it actually loosened up when I got back in there and got up and down a couple times. It really didn’t affect me the rest of the game.’’
Allen played 35 minutes, and scored 7 points on 2-for-7 shooting. He went to the locker room after the James elbow left him with shortness of breath.
“As I sat on the bench I started getting shortness of breath and decided to just have a doctor look at it just to make sure,’’ Allen said. “I think I have a bruised chest cavity, but I’ll just have to deal with it.’’
Game 3 is Saturday night, meaning the Celtics will have three days to nurse their wounds.
“In this case, the rest is good for us,’’ Rondo said. “Because we are a little banged up.’’
Not lined up The number of free throws has been dramatically lopsided. Miami’s gone to the line 68 times in two games, the Celtics just 40.
Dwyane Wade scored 11 of his 28 points last night at the line.
Wade, James, and Chris Bosh, the Heat’s Big Three, went to the line 32 times. Allen, Pierce, and Kevin Garnett took just four free throws, Garnett not taking any.
“We’ve got to find a way to get to the line,’’ said Rondo, who went 6 of 8 from the stripe. “We’re getting into the penalty situation, but after that it seems like we don’t drive more or we don’t get the foul.
“They’re doing the opposite, they’re continuing to drive, they’re getting the calls, and they’re more aggressive. So we’ve just got to stay aggressive and things will go our way.’’
Big question Shaquille O’Neal was inactive again last night, but Rivers was hopeful that he could play in Game 3.
O’Neal practiced Monday for the first time since aggravating his inflamed right Achilles’ tendon.
“He looked great,’’ Rivers said. “He went through the whole practice. He was phenomenal, actually. He had one stretch that was phenomenal, then by the end of practice he was struggling walking.
“So we’ll see. But I would say Game 3 is becoming likely.’’
How much he can give the Celtics is a question Rivers isn’t concerned with at this point.
“I have no problem playing him,’’ Rivers said. “At the end of the day, unlike all of us, he’s big. When we play him, he’s still going to be big. He’s going to be bigger than anybody on the floor and if that’s for two minutes or four minutes, he’s still big and height matters.’’
Tighter defense The NBA heightened security in the aftermath of the death of Osama bin Laden, mandating metal detectors for all remaining postseason games. The difference, however, was hardly noticeable for players yesterday at AmericanAirlines Arena. “More dogs walking around,’’ Rivers said. “But other than that, no.’’ Allen’s routine allows him to beat security. “I didn’t notice it,’’ Allen said. “But you know I get here early.’’
Julian Benbow can be reached at email@example.com.