For those seeking the intensity of a Heat-Celtics matchup, the best advice was to dig up a tape from the April 10 game in Miami or perhaps the April 1 game at TD Garden, because neither team was recognizable in Tuesday night’s game.
Celtics coach Doc Rivers trumped Miami coach Erik Spoelstra’s decision to rest the Heat’s Big Three by sitting Kevin Garnett, Rajon Rondo, Mickael Pietrus, and Greg Stiemsma to nurse nagging injuries. Ray Allen had been scratched after Monday’s practice.
Rivers said most of those players will return for Thursday’s season finale against the Bucks.
Garnett’s absence was the biggest surprise. He told Rivers that a hip flexor injury that caused him to miss a Feb. 15 loss to the Pistons had flared up. Garnett also was held out of Friday’s 97-92 loss to the Hawks to get some rest.
“Kevin never comes in, and when he comes in to say, ‘I think I need two more days,’ it speaks volumes,’’ said Rivers.
Paul Pierce asked to play Tuesday after being held out of Friday’s game. He told Rivers he wants to get in rhythm for the playoffs. He scored 8 points on 4-of-7 shooting in 18 minutes. He also had six turnovers. Ryan Hollins and Sasha Pavlovic joined Pierce, Brandon Bass, and Avery Bradley in the starting lineup.
Rondo, who has not played since landing on his back going for a rebound April 17, is expecting to play Thursday, Rivers said. Rondo participated in Tuesday’s shootaround.
Stiemsma, who has a bone bruise in his right foot and plantar fasciitis in his left, is improving, and Rivers wanted to give his rookie center another day off. Stiemsma has not been able to practice or participate in shootarounds for weeks.
Allen won’t play Thursday either, putting his status for the playoffs in question. An MRI revealed bone spurs in his right ankle. He underwent surgery five years ago to remove bone spurs from both ankles, causing him to miss the final 16 games of the 2006-07 season.
“We don’t know anything,’’ Rivers said. “It’s a concern.’’
Meanwhile, Spoelstra rested LeBron James, Dwyane Wade, and Chris Bosh. Bosh told reporters he has a strained hamstring but will be healthy enough for the start of the playoffs. Wade has a sore left knee and dislocated left index finger, while James just received some rest.
Pietrus said he wanted to play Tuesday but trainer Ed Lacerte suggested he take one more game off. Rivers said the swelling in his surgically repaired right knee has subsided completely. Pietrus has not played since April 15 against the Bobcats. After playing in three games in three nights, his knee swelled. “I look forward to having a good practice [Wednesday] and being able to help my team [Thursday],’’ he said. “I want to try to get into a rhythm and get ready for the playoffs. I will be healthy and we’ll get everybody back [for Wednesday’s practice] and it will be a great month for the Celtics and try to get banner 18.’’
The Celtics are expected to play Saturday if they draw the Hawks on the road to start Round 1 and a Sunday game if they are at home. The Hawks end the season with the Mavericks Thursday. The Celtics are one game back of the Hawks, but do own the tiebreaker. The Celtics have to win Thursday against Milwaukee and have the Hawks lose to gain home court. Celtics officials expect that if the Bruins defeat the Capitals Wednesday, the Bruins would play Game 1 of the Eastern Conference semifinals Saturday, and it’s doubtful the Bruins and Celtics would play on the same day at TD Garden.
The Celtics will hold their final practice of the regular season Wednesday . . . Hawks center Al Horford, one of the league’s top big men, told Yahoo! Sports he will play in a first-round series against the Celtics. Horford has been out since tearing his left pectoral muscle Jan. 11 . . . Hollins started seven games for the Cavaliers earlier this season and made his 55th career start Tuesday night . . . Rivers said he wants to get rookie E’Twaun Moore, who had 7 points and seven rebounds in 25 minutes, more playing time in the final games because “he will help us in the playoffs.’’ Rivers prophetically said the same thing about Nate Robinson two years ago, and Robinson was critical to a Game 6 Eastern Conference finals win over the Magic . . . Former Celtic Chris Herren received a standing ovation from the sellout crowd after being introduced as a “Hero Among Us’’ for his work helping substance abuse victims and relaying his own personal substance abuse story.Gary Washburn can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org. You can follow him on Twitter at @gwashNBAGlobe