Commentary

Celtics try to stay focused on Nets

Updated: February 16, 2011, 2:31 AM ET
By Chris Forsberg | ESPNBoston.com

WALTHAM, Mass. -- The way Doc Rivers describes the final game before the All-Star break, you get a mental picture of a Boston Celtics' locker room that resembles the chaotic opening scene in "Home Alone."

Fifteen players, five coaches and a support staff all preparing to bolt in different directions. Many are going to Los Angeles for festivities surrounding the 60th All-Star Game, some are sneaking home for a few days, others are bolting for a long weekend in more tropical climes.

The alarm clock -- which, unlike the McAllisters, Rivers would prefer not to sleep through -- is the 17-win New Jersey Nets, who visit TD Garden on Wednesday night for Boston's pre-break finale.

[+] EnlargeDoc Rivers
Nathaniel S. Butler/NBAE/Getty ImagesDoc Rivers recognizes the distractions of the All-Star break, but needs his team's attention for one more game.

"Half our guys are packing for L.A., the other half are going to god knows where," Rivers said. "You want to make sure you finish the games. It's different. It's not like you're traveling yourself. When you're on [All-Star] break, you've got your family. I'm sure the guys will all hear it [Wednesday], their wives will be telling them what they have to pack, because they are all going to. That makes the break difficult."

The Celtics don't need a reminder about the perils of the first-half finale. Last season, Boston built a 12-point halftime lead against the New Orleans Hornets, then let it slip away while suffering a 93-85 loss that left a sour taste entering the break.

With visits from a who's who among the league's elite over the past two weeks -- the Lakers, Heat, Magic and Mavericks were the last four home games -- it's not going to be easy for Boston to focus on a New Jersey team it has already topped twice this season, including a 25-point thrashing on the road in early December.

And those are exactly the type of games that have plagued Boston over the past two seasons, regardless of any breaks on the horizon.

Rivers thought he had a secret weapon to combat a case of the overlooksies. Reserve guard Delonte West, sidelined by a fractured right wrist since Nov. 24, was set to make his on-court return Wednesday, hoping to shake some rust before the break.

Then West tweaked the wrist during Tuesday's practice and was headed for X-rays to find out whether his return would be delayed until after the break.

A Boston team desperate for healthy bodies after employing what amounted to a seven-man rotation in Sunday's win over the Miami Heat is getting used to shake-your-head situations like this. But Rivers won't let the Celtics feel sorry for themselves.

"We're not the only team," Rivers said of dealing with mounting injuries. "I don't know if anyone's had as many [injuries] as us, but there are a lot of teams with problems right now. You've just got to try to get through it."

Ray Allen, one of the four Boston players getting set to play in Sunday's All-Star Game, did his part to combat the "Home Alone" effect by packing a suitcase in advance, but he still expects to have last-minute anxiety.

"I've actually packed already, so I got that out of the way," Allen said. "But I will stress over like, 'Do I need that bag? Do I need that pair of pants?''

Allen acknowledged he was probably the first of his teammates to prep a travel bag.

"Yeah, I definitely am the first one," he said. "It was bothering me three days ago, and I was thinking [about it] because packing is one of my biggest stresses. I've got bags still that I need to unpack, and thinking about the All-Star weekend and the games afterward, we'll be on the road for a while."

The Celtics open the second half of the season with a four-game trip out west. After Wednesday, they won't play on the Garden floor until March 2. By then, the trade deadline will have passed and Boston's roster could have a new look. It's possible a player or two will be packing more than a travel bag.

Two of Allen's L.A.-bound travel mates (and two guys with plenty of job security) remained stoic about the visit from the Nets.

Asked if he's ready for Wednesday night, Celtics All-Star forward Kevin Garnett offered a simple "Yup." All-Star guard Rajon Rondo said the team's level of preparedness is not an issue.

"We're professionals," Rondo said. "We have to go out there and handle our business."

They'd better. The Wet Bandits, err, the New Jersey Nets will pounce if the Celtics leave their home unprotected.

Chris Forsberg covers the Celtics for ESPNBoston.com. Follow him on Twitter.

Chris Forsberg

Celtics reporter, ESPNBoston.com

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