Practice report: Perk sits with sore knee

WALTHAM, Mass. -- A collection of news and notes after the Boston Celtics practiced Saturday morning at the Sports Authority Training Center at HealthPoint in advance of Sunday's Game 1 of the Eastern Conference Finals against the Orlando Magic:

The rundown (a quick look at practice headlines)

* Perkins sits with sore knee; expected to play Sunday

* Even without LeBron, Pierce expects to work for points

* Loose balls: Nelson's the key for Magic; East goes through Orlando

Celtics center Kendrick Perkins watched practice from the sideline with a pair of ice packs over his knees after his problematic right knee acted up at the start of on-court activities.

Perkins battled tendinitis in that knee late in the season, sitting out two games in late March, then hyperextended it during the morning shootaround before Game 2 in Cleveland. Coach Doc Rivers didn't seem overly concerned, but erred on the side of caution on the eve of the conference finals. Game 1 against the Magic is Sunday at 3:30 p.m. in Orlando.

"His knee is bothering him," said Rivers. "He tried to go early, but it started bothering him a lot. He wanted to go, but I told him, 'Look, I don’t need you tonight, you're not going to help me today in practice. I need you tomorrow.' So I shut him down."

Rivers said he expects Perkins to play Sunday and much of the chatter at Celtics' practice revolved around the role Perkins will play in defending Orlando's Dwight Howard.

"I think Perk is going to be one of the biggest keys in this series," said Paul Pierce. "We're going to ask him do lot of 1-on-1 guarding with Dwight Howard because we can't really come off the rest of these guys the way they shoot the ball from the perimeter, swing it and drive it. I think in the past Perk has played [Howard] pretty well, so we're going to ask him to do that again, especially coming off a tough series where he had to guard Shaquille O'Neal."

At the end of Saturday's practice, Rasheed Wallace ran through drills with the first team and is likely to see extended minutes against Orlando regardless of Perkins' health, especially considering his success against Howard and the Magic in the past.

"[Wallace is] equally as big [for us]," said Pierce. "We've got two guys who are capable of matching up on Howard 1-on-1. Teams go out and double him and it frees up the shooters. We've got an advantage at that point if we don't have to double when guarding him. [Wallace] is going to be key too, and, if eventually we need Kevin [Garnett] to guard [Howard], we've got yet another guy who can guard him 1-on-1."

Even without LeBron, Pierce expects to work for points

Asked if he expects his scoring to come easier now that he doesn't have to defend Cleveland superstar LeBron James (or a player of his caliber), Pierce said there's not exactly a vacation awaiting him in Orlando.

"[The Magic have] a combination of guys that can make up for LeBron," said Pierce. "[Michael] Pietrus is playing really well, Vince Carter is playing well, Matt Barnes ... It's definitely not going to be a night out for me because I'm not guarding LeBron James. These other guys are playing well, they hold their own with the rest of their team and they're key components to what they're trying to do out there."

Orlando coach Stan Van Gundy said earlier this week that the Magic might utilize Barnes to guard Ray Allen instead of Pierce, which suggested Orlando views Allen as the bigger offensive threat at the moment.

Barnes missed practice Saturday in Orlando because of back spasms, but expects to start Sunday. After the session, he said the injury flared up after first occurring in Game 3 of the Magic's second-round sweep of Atlanta.

"Whatever, Vince or Barnes is going to guard [Pierce], they've only got so many guys, just like Ray or Paul will guard one of them," said Rivers. "They did that in the regular season some. Right now the interesting thing is teams are more concerned about Ray and that's a big change because it's been Paul all year.

"Hopefully Paul hears that and takes it personally."

Pierce averaged 13.5 points while shooting 34.5 percent against Cleveland, topping 14 points just once in the six-game series. Allen, meanwhile, is averaging 15.7 points per game on 42.5 percent shooting. The Celtics are 6-0 in the postseason when Ray Allen scores 18 points or more.

Loose balls: Nelson's the key for Magic; East goes through Orlando

* The Celtics brushed off talk of this being a rematch from last year's conference semifinals, pointing to the roster changes on both sides, including the additions of Garnett and Jameer Nelson, both of whom missed last year's meeting with injuries. You can easily make the case that those two players have been the MVPs for their teams during the postseason thus far and the Celtics are extremely concerned about what Nelson can do by creating off the dribble.

"Jameer is the key to their team. He's as important as anyone," said Rivers. "I think he's their best player in the playoffs so far. He's been phenomenal. Rondo and him is going to be a heck of a duel."

* Rivers, an Orlando resident, was asked if he had his wife and family scouting the Magic all year and quipped: "Yeah, they've been there all year. I've got all the notes, but they didn't work last year, so I'm not going to take them any more."

* Even after dispatching the vaunted (and top-seeded) Cavaliers, the Celtics are not underestimating the Magic. Quite the opposite, they've always viewed Orlando as the team to beat in the quest for Banner 18.

"We told our guys, Cleveland wasn’t our goal and neither is Orlando,” said Rivers. “Having said that, Orlando is the team that, coming into the season, you felt if you wanted to get out of the East, you had to beat Orlando. They’re the team that won the East last year, not Cleveland, and I wanted to make sure our guys had focus on that.”

* The Celtics watched film for an hour at the start of Saturday's session, then got on the floor for another 70 minutes before catching an afternoon flight to Orlando.