WALTHAM, Mass. (AP) — It’s all hands on deck for Game 3 of the Eastern Conference semifinals between Boston and Cleveland.
And knees. And feet. And elbows.
The banged-up Celtics and Cavaliers used the long layover between Game 2 on Monday night and Friday night’s third game to recover from the bumps and bruises they’ve acquired so far in the rough-and-tumble series.
“It’s been good for us. It’s been good for me, and it’s been good for both teams,” Cavaliers forward LeBron James said. “We all know this is going to be one of the most physical series that this league has to offer. Anytime you get a little rest, it’s great to have.”
James has been diagnosed with a bone bruise and strain in his right elbow. He tested his elbow Thursday at practice in Independence, Ohio, before boarding a plane for Boston, and the team said he would not need another MRI.
At their workout facility in Waltham, Celtics big men Kevin Garnett and Kendrick Perkins were back at practice a day after sitting out to recover.
“I’m not injured. I just banged my foot,” Garnett said. “I’m definitely ready to go.”
Garnett came down with a what the team said was strain in his right foot when Perkins landed on him with about three minutes left in Monday night’s game. Boston won 104-86 to even the best-of-seven series at one game apiece and steal home-court advantage from the 61-win Cavaliers.
Boston hadn’t won a playoff game in Cleveland in six tries since 1992. Now the Cavaliers will have to win a game in Boston, where they haven’t won in the postseason since the ’92 conference semis, or face a 3-1 deficit that would leave them at the brink of elimination.
“We have a veteran ballclub and guys know how important this game is,” James said. “We knew it was going to be a tough series, and we didn’t think it was going to be a bed of roses at any point in time. Now we have to go to Boston and try to win a couple.”
The Celtics took Tuesday off, and Garnett did not participate when they returned to practice the next day, raising fears of a prolonged absence like the one that kept him out of the 2009 playoffs and doomed their chances of repeating as NBA champions.
Garnett said he wanted to practice Wednesday, but the coaches and trainers told him to rest.
“We live on the planet of Doc Rivers,” he said.
After an extra day off, the swelling that ballooned his foot on the flight home from Cleveland had subsided. Garnett was back on the floor Thursday, and he said there was nothing that his foot prevented him from doing in practice.
Rivers said Garnett did “most” of the usual workload.
“I didn’t really want him to go much today, but he was moving so well so I just let him go,” he said.
Perkins agreed: “He didn’t look injured to me.”
Garnett was already off the floor by the time the media were allowed into practice, but Perkins remained long after most of his teammates had left for some extra work on his low-post moves. He showed no signs of an injury, which he said he sustained during Monday’s pregame shootaround.
Perkins played 31 minutes with the injury in Game 2 and scored 10 points with nine rebounds.
“It feels better since the last game on Monday,” he said. “There’s still a little pain, but there’s nothing serious.”
Perkins said point guard Rajon Rondo was also banged-up from getting knocked around in the series. Rondo took a hard foul from 325-pound Cavs center Shaquille O’Neal in the closing minutes of Game 1 on Saturday that forced the 186-pound point guard to take a few minutes before shooting the free throws.
“I think the time off helps us a lot for guys who need the rest,” Perkins said.