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Celtics captain Paul Pierce is expected on the floor for tonight's Game 5 in Atlanta.ATLANTA -- Boston Celtics coach Doc Rivers said he expects all of his players to be available for Tuesday's Game 5 of an Eastern Conference quarterfinal series against the Atlanta Hawks.
The Celtics are dealing with nagging injuries to Paul Pierce (left knee), Ray Allen (right ankle), and Avery Bradley (left shoulder), but Rivers said he anticipates them all in their normal roles with a chance to close out the Hawks on Tuesday at Philips Arena.
"Everyone is going to play, I think," Rivers said before the team's morning shootaround at the arena. "Ray feels good, he’s probably the healthiest right now. Avery has to be feeling better because he got through the game with no injury, so that’s two more days of shoulder getting stronger. Other than that, everybody’s about the same."
Pressed on Pierce, Rivers said, "He’ll be ready, but obviously you don’t know once the game starts what happens. We've just gotta be ready for anything."
Later, Rivers reiterated how he did not even expect Pierce to play in Sunday's Game 4 win. Pierce sprained his knee tripping over a teammate's foot during a morning shootaround, then further aggravated the ailment in the first half of Sunday's game. Through it all, he scored a game-high 24 points over a mere 16½ minutes.
"Watching [Sunday's] shootaround, I didn’t think Paul would play the other night and then he does what he does," said Rivers. "It just shows you, we’ve talked about him before, he’s such a gamer, that’s what he is. But we had already kinda tweaked the lineup, preparing for him not to play. The fact that he played and played well, obviously, was a bonus."
Inside the Celtics' locker room, Bradley didn't hesitate when asked if he'd play Tuesday. He was able to grind through Game 4, then used the offday to further strengthen the shoulder that dislocated in Game 3.
"I think Avery’s probably improved a little bit more, because nothing happened during the two days off," said Rivers.
Rivers brushed aside the notion of having to "drop the hammer" against the Hawks with Boston up 3 games to 1 and looking for the knockout blow.
"We look at it as it’s important to play well," said Rivers. "And if you do that, then everything takes care of itself. If you get caught looking at putting the hammer and all that stuff down, you lose."
In search of a jolt, Hawks coach Larry Drew said his team will shuffle its starting lineup to feature Jeff Teague, Joe Johnson, Marvin Williams, Josh Smith, and Al Horford. That moves Kirk Hinrich and Jason Collins back to the bench and adds some bulk to the Atlanta lineup, particularly with Johnson shuffling down to the shooting guard spot.
"I just wanted to give us a different look and see it if will kinda jump start us a bit," said Drew. "It gives us an opportunity to move Joe back to some 2, it makes us bigger, so we can do a few more things defensively in making some adjustments in Game 5. And I just think it's time -- you play four games in the playoffs and, obviously it's a game of adjustments and you try to do things that will benefit the team. I think, at this time, down 3-1, it's time to give it a different look see it if will jump start us with Al and Marvin in the starting lineup... get us going."