Before last night's game, Doc Rivers spoke almost solely about injuries.
Doc, who's your backup point guard?
"Anyone. I told Luke [Harangody] to get ready."
Can your team handle these injuries, Doc?
"Someone was asking me, ‘Can you lose Rondo?’" Rivers responded. "And I said, ‘Yeah. We’re 3-1, we should be 4-0 without him.’ What we can’t lose is Rondo, Delonte West – the numbers are starting to add up now. We just can’t sustain another one. I actually said that [Wednesday] night before the [Knicks] game. That went over well.
"But we are where we’re at."
We are where we're at -- in the midst of a 12-game win streak, perservering against every team that tries its hand. Remember when Amare Stoudemire pretended to be a Space Jam Monstar, while Raymond Felton badly outplayed Rajon Rondo? You should remember; it was just Wednesday. But it ultimately didn't matter, because the Celtics made all the plays down the stretch to come away with a win. They continue to do enough to scrape out victories, regardless of which players suit up.
Sometimes, it's because Paul Pierce hits a game winner with 0.4 seconds remaining. Other times, it's because Pierce dishes out ten assists while playing point forward, and Ray Allen erupts for 17 second-half points, and Kevin Garnett grabs 14 rebounds in only 32 minutes.
"At this point," Garnett said, "I'm trying to get every rebound out there."
He definitely took Semih Erden's rebounds. Every single one of them. Just ask Erden: Does Garnett get all of your rebounds, Semih?
"Yeah. He's a big rebounder."
But as frustrating as it is to watch a seven-footer turn in 24 minutes without a rebound, the Rebound-less Turk wasn't useless. Not at all. He pieced together a career-high 10 points, two of which came as a result of this:
(Picture via @TasMelas)
"Semih was phenomenal tonight for us," said Rivers.
Gushed Garnett, "What y'all don't know man, is that the kid has a lot of confidence in himself. He has a lot of confidence in himself, and he's very skilled with each hand. He has a lot of post game moves."
"He played against Shaq and J.O. in camp, and he held his own," Garnett added. "And that's saying a lot. He's not just out here. He's definitely worthy of being on this team. We wouldn't have confidence in him if he didn't build that in us."
Yes, the Celtics are confident in Semih Erden. But even if they weren't they'd have no choice but to play him -- he's the only true center left standing. Celtics are going down like injuries are contagious. After Von Wafer left yesterday's game with a back issue, the C's were down to nine healthy players.
Said Rivers, "We don't even have enough players to practice with."
Not that they'll use that as an excuse.
"A lot of teams would make excuses to lay down, but we're not that kind of team," said Paul Pierce. And why would they be? Even with the rash of injuries, the Celtics still start three Hall of Famers and bring a leading Sixth Man of the Year candidate off the bench.
"Even with guys injured," Pierce said, "we feel we have an advantage."
That's why the Celtics can overcome what Doc Rivers called an "off-the-mark passing night" from Nate Robinson. That's why they can get by when their starting center (who's really their fourth-string center) grabs zero rebounds. That's why Avery Bradley can experience growing pains; and Jeff Teague can forget he's only Jeff Teague; and Marvin Williams can pretend he was actually worthy of the number two draft pick; and this can be the second night of a back-to-back after an emotional win in New York; and the Celtics can still escape with a win.
Just don't think it was an easy 'W', regardless of what the scoreboard read at the night's end.
"In order for us to win these games, we're just going to have to grind it out," Garnett said. "You know, until we get the guys back.
"We just got the news about Rondo; Shaq wasn't available today. So what're you going to do? You can quit, you put your clothes on and go home, but that ain't the way we do things here. We work.
"So that, pretty much," he said, looking for the right words to describe his team's latest shorthanded win.
"Gutsy is an understatement."