WALTHAM, Mass --You have to wonder if the basketball gods are conspiring against the Celtics this season.
First, Kevin Garnett, one of the NBA's foremost ironmen -- KG has played in all 82 games three times in his 14-year career and in at least 76 games 10 times -- went down with a potentially season-ending knee injury. Then it was Brian Scalabrine taking a place on the inactive list after absorbing one too many concussions. The latest blow came on Tuesday, when Celtics coach Doc Rivers told reporters that Leon Powe would miss the rest of the season after tearing his ACL in the second quarter of Boston's win over Chicago on Monday.
"Obviously a tough break," said Rivers. "He just does so many right things. He played three minutes with a torn ACL. That says so much about Leon."
If the camel's back wasn't already broken in Boston, this might be the straw to do it. Powe's regular season numbers weren't gaudy: in 70 games, Powe averaged 7.7 points and 4.9 rebounds. But with Garnett sidelined and Glen Davis struggling to defend the pick-and-roll in Game 1, there was a groundswell of support for Powe, a physical defender and the team's No. 2 offensive rebounder in the regular season, to play a more expanded role.
With Powe looking at reconstructive surgery in the next few months, Boston's front line is now paper thin. Three players -- Kendrick Perkins, Davis and Mikki Moore -- will be asked to check a Chicago front line that is young, athletic and, at least through two games, has shown no fear of the defending champions.
"Mikki, Perk and [Davis], they have to be on the floor," said Rivers. "Silly fouls, we have to take them out. Mikki had a couple last night but he is getting better. He is so used to playing hard and free and running around. Here, you have to play hard and disciplined. In football terms, you have to run your route. That's our team, defensively. His intent is great. It's his execution that needs improvement."
Execution ... and maybe a few other things, too. Much was made of the Celtics' signing of Moore in February, mainly because a lot of people thought they were getting Moore, circa 2007. Back then Moore led the NBA in field-goal percentage and was a staple in the playoff-bound New Jersey Nets' starting lineup. Instead, Moore (4.8 points, 4.4 rebounds and 4.0 fouls in 19 minutes per game with Boston) has played like the inconsistent, defensively-challenged player Sacramento dumped just 1 ½ years into a partially guaranteed three-year, $18-million contract.
Boston can't afford to carry that player on the floor. They need Moore, the most athletic big they have available, to run the floor with Tyrus Thomas and challenge Joakim Noah around the rim. They need him to take the defensive pressure off of Paul Pierce, Ray Allen and Rajon Rondo by knocking down the 15-foot jumper that was a major part of his repertoire in New Jersey. It's the only way this Celtics team can salvage what is looking more and more like a lost season.