Both Paul Pierce and Kevin Garnett will miss the Boston Celtics' April 11 game against the Miami Heat due to ankle injuries. According to Chris Forsberg of ESPN Boston, Garnett is suffering inflammation in the left side, while Pierce has soreness in both.
As tough as these two men have proven to be, this is nothing short of a concerning sign with the NBA postseason nearing.
Garnett had previously missed eight games (h/t the Boston Globe) due to ankle inflammation before averaging 26 minutes over the past two outings. He upped his playing time to 28 minutes in the second of those two games, but is being rested due to the nature of this back-to-back.
After being home for the Brooklyn Nets, Boston is now on the road to play Miami—a taxing schedule for a banged up 36-year-old.
As for Pierce, the 35-year-old has played in 75 out of Boston's 78 games thus far in 2012-13. With that being said, he's missed two of the past five, not counting the April 11 game against the Heat.
While some might consider this a rational rest, we'd be remiss to ignore the long road ahead for Pierce and the Celtics—a long, grueling road that will require every star to be healthy.
No Round is Favorable
In recent seasons, the Boston Celtics were the clear favorite during each of their first-round matchups. This enabled stars to take on lighter minutes, thus building momentum yet still nursing injuries as they approach the second round.
In 2012-13, Boston is on pace to battle a dominant New York Knicks squad that has won 13 consecutive games.
Furthermore, the Celtics are in unusual position as they lack home-court advantage. Going up against a Knicks team that is 29-10 at Madison Square Garden, Boston will need all hands on deck.
More specifically, they'll need their stars to be healthy.
Carmelo Anthony is playing out of his basketball mind, averaging 40.6 points and 8.2 rebounds over his past five games. He's averaging 34.1 points per contest over the span of his past 11 outings.
If the Celtics are going to counter his production, they'll need Paul Pierce to step up in a major way—something a healthy version of The Truth is capable of.
Furthermore, Tyson Chandler is following up a 2011-12 season in which he won the Defensive Player of the Year award. Chandler is often limited in terms of production, but his defensive contributions are undeniable.
Seeing as Chandler is battling injuries as well, Kevin Garnett could exploit an advantage—if he's healthy.
During their prime, Pierce and Garnett battled numerous injuries and still managed to piece together Hall of Fame careers. With that being said, they were also young and durable warriors whose pain threshold matched powerful bodies.
Today, Garnett is 36 and Pierce is 35—it's a different story.
Both of these players will play through pain if it means they're helping the team win. With that being said, if ankles are an issue, Pierce is going to have a tough time creating shots for himself.
Against a New York Knicks defense that collapses as soon as Pierce could think of driving, his uncanny ability to play the angles could be damaged by injury.
As for Garnett, he's in store for a physical battle with center Tyson Chandler. This is not to say that KG cannot handle it at perfect health, but instead to acknowledge that a bum ankle could be the difference in that clash.
The Celtics need their stars to be healthy if they're going to make a run through the postseason—specifically without Rajon Rondo.
The Rondo Factor
On Jan. 27, 2013, it was announced that Boston Celtics point guard Rajon Rondo had suffered a torn ACL. This was confirmed to be a season-ending injury, thus leaving the Celtics without the NBA's leading assist man.
Boston responded by winning seven consecutive games and going 14-4 during their first 18 without Rondo.
As a result of their success, many had labeled the Celtics as a team that was "better without their star." As their recent success has displayed, however, they were simply banding together in a tough time.
The Celtics are 6-11 during their past 17 games.
This has been the story of Boston's season, as every hot streak has been met by a period of disappointing results. With injuries to the leaders of the current crop of Celtics, those struggles appear on pace to be continued in the NBA postseason.
Unless KG and Pierce become healthy.