BOSTON -- Celtics coach Doc Rivers said Paul Pierce is expected to return to the lineup tonight against the Heat following a one-game absence to rest, but that the team will be without Kevin Garnett (rest/hip flexor), Ray Allen (ankle), Rajon Rondo (lower back), Mickael Pietrus (knee) and Greg Stiemsma (foot).
Rivers said he wanted to play Garnett tonight, but that his center approached him about taking the night off to continue to rest and recover from a longstanding hip flexor issue.
"I wanted to play [Garnett] tonight," Rivers said. "My choice was more tonight and give him a day off Thursday. Kevin never comes in and when he comes in to say 'I think I need two more days,' it speaks volumes."
Rivers said there is no update on Allen's progress as he fights to overcome bone spurs in his troublesome left ankle, but Rivers did express encouragement over Pietrus' state, noting that the swelling in his knee has subsided, and he expects to have him back for Thursday's regular-season finale against the Bucks.
"[Pietrus] didn't practice yesterday, but he did shoot," Rivers said. "Swelling's all gone, which is huge, and he will play Thursday."
According to Rivers, Rondo is still fighting through lower back pain following a scary fall against the Knicks last Tuesday, but he could return for Thursday's game.
"[Rondo's] just not ready yet," Rivers said. "He didn't do much at shootaround today, still very stiff. But he's feeling a lot better. Today was the first day he was out on the floor shooting, so he'll probably play on Thursday."