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Pierce (heel) won’t play in preseason finale tonight

By Frank Dell’Apa
Globe Staff / December 21, 2011
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WALTHAM - Celtics captain Paul Pierce missed practice yesterday and will not play when the team hosts Toronto in its final preseason game tonight.

Pierce (heel bruise) did not play in the Celtics’ 76-75 victory at Toronto Sunday, then participated in an informal workout Monday.

“I’m concerned not long-term, I’m concerned short-term,’’ coach Doc Rivers said. “We have those two games right off the bat and really he’s had one practice, that’s it.

“It’s a heel bruise - he went real hard [Monday] and it just really got real sore so we just want him to rest. The problem with that is it will be a lot of rest and he may be ready but with no play, that’s scary.

“It wasn’t really a test - he went out and did some one-on-one work with some of the guys and the heel got extremely sore.’’

Pierce’s absence raises questions about the Celtics’ depth. Marquis Daniels took Pierce’s place with the starters in practice and Sasha Pavlovic (wrist) completed his first full practice since being injured last week.

Pierce will not return to practice until the day before the Celtics’ visit to New York Sunday, Rivers said.

“That’s just the way it runs right now,’’ Rivers said. “I think we’ll have two of the three [for the season-opener].’’

Dynamic duo

Keyon Dooling and Rajon Rondo paired in the backcourt against Toronto Sunday.

“They are smart enough to do it,’’ Rivers said. “Keyon and Rondo had not played a second together and that was good to see that, because they figured it out. Keyon had not played the ‘2’ since he’d been here and it was easy for him. And that was good to see.

“We couldn’t have a better guy to back up Rondo - spirit, knowledge, being a veteran, he can make open shots, and he challenges Rondo every day in practice. Rondo laughed about it several times, this guy doesn’t back up at all. It’s been great - they go at each other in a positive way. I think it’s the first time Rondo’s had that and it’s great for him.’’

Finding his way

The near three-hour workout concluded with a Chris Wilcox dunk off an Avery Bradley feed after a timeout.

“Chris had a stretch where they were cheering and saying, ‘Hey he’s a Celtic today.’ And then he had another stretch, he was just lost, and hey, ‘He’s the new guy,’ ’’ said Rivers. “JuJuan [Johnson] had a stretch - they’re getting it but it’s slow.

Kevin [Garnett] has clearly taken [Johnson] under his wing. You know how it is with Kevin - you get one shot and if he thinks you’re paying attention he spends the year with you. Obviously, he’s passed the test.’’

The reserves have fit in well, Rivers said.

“Chemistry is phenomenal,’’ he said. “Continuity is not very good, chemistry is. I hear the veterans talk about this team - that [chemistry] will not be a problem this year. But the continuity, that’s going to take some time. Guys who have been here, they’re still ahead. The new guys are still trying to figure it out.

“Our guys think our bench could be good but they want to make sure, so there’s a lot of help on the floor. Every year you try to build the bench. And some years we’ve been successful and some years we haven’t. Last year, we failed miserably - me and everyone. The bench didn’t save us - ever. They lost some for us.

“This bench, one thing I do like, they’re not going to back up. They may not play well, but they’re a tough group. They respect the starters, that’s about it, that’s all they’re getting.

“It’s always a problem, role players understanding they are role players. We’ve got a group of guys who clearly know who they are and they are also very comfortable with that. They think they can play as well as the starters but they accept where they’re at.’’

Frank Dell’Apa can be reached at

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