Can Celts draw inspiration from injury?

LOS ANGELES -- When the Boston Celtics' locker room opened to the media Tuesday night following an 89-67 thrashing at the hands of the Los Angeles Lakers, Kendrick Perkins' locker stall was empty, but most of his teammates hadn't even dressed.

In one corner of the room, Paul Pierce, Tony Allen and Glen Davis sat in uniform with heads bowed, still stung from both the Game 6 loss that evened the NBA Finals and the loss of Perkins, who sprained his right knee and is questionable for Thursday's Game 7.

The official word on Perkins was a sprained right knee that will be re-evaluated Wednesday. Perkins told ESPN he hopes to play in Game 7, but a team source told ESPN.com's Chris Sheridan that the Celtics center was "done."

Allen sighed heavily when asked about Perkins. Watching Boston's center tumble to the floor in agony midway through the first quarter hit hard for Allen, who blew out his ACL in January of 2007.

All Allen missed was the end of a dreadful 24-58 campaign, one in which Boston endured a franchise-worst 18-game losing streak. This is the NBA Finals and he clearly understood how hard it would be for Perkins to be sidelined for the most important game of the year.

"It's the NBA Finals and Kendrick Perkins is in our hearts," said Allen, admitting he didn't think the prospect of Perkins returning for Game 7 was very likely.

But like Pierce and Davis would soon echo, Allen changed his tone from defeated to inspired. As if given a time limit on feeling sorry for themselves, the three players all quickly rallied around the loss of Perkins as inspiration for Game 7.

"[Perkins' injury is] going to put fuel to the fire," said Allen. "I want to go out there and play harder just to try to get it for Kendrick, because Lord knows he wants to be out there. I hope he gets well soon. I love him like a brother. It's real unfortunate. I'm sure he'll be cheering us on in Game 7."

Perkins tweaked his knee after getting sandwiched between Andrew Bynum and Kobe Bryant while trying to haul in a first-quarter offensive rebound. Bynum bumped him from behind and Perkins stepped on Bryant, landing awkwardly.

"If Perk can't go, the Ticket Stub will be here," said Davis, dipping into his nickname locker for the moniker created for his elevated play in place of Kevin "Big Ticket" Garnett during last year's playoffs.

"I'll call him, make sure he comes in on his flight," Davis continued, referring to his Ticket Stub persona. "I'll make sure he gets on his flight early, probably in the morning. I'll call and see how he's doing."

Davis played 27 minutes Tuesday, and while he didn't score, he did grab a team-high nine rebounds in Perkins' absence. On Thursday, he's hoping to rekindle some of that magic he seems to dig out when thrust into a starring role.

"I love [the opportunity]," said Davis. "This is what it's all about. This is what you guys are going to be talking about for years. You guys will remember this moment. You'll remember Thursday forever. I can't wait. I can't wait to step on the floor and win here in L.A.

"For [Perkins] to go down, it's tough for us. But we still gotta play the game."

Like any good captain, Pierce did his best to downplay the loss of Perkins, acknowledging his value, but suggesting it's no reason for the Celtics to let this series slip away.

Especially after what they've endured this season.

"Perk brings rebounding and defense to the game, and toughness," said Pierce. "We lose that, but that's not an excuse. We're a mentally tough team. We've had injuries all year that we've dealt with. We know how to win when guys go down, so that's no excuse for us.

"I'm very confident [Boston can win Thursday]. Unfortunately, we put ourselves in this position. But hey, if the playoffs started and you'd have asked me if, in the beginning of April, you said we had the chance to win the championship in our last two games on the road, I'd take it. I'd take it now."

Davis wanted the team to rally around the loss of Perkins.

"We gotta go get it," he said. "We went through too much, too many ups and downs to lose like this. Of all the teams in the league, we're the ones who struggled. We went through the bumps and bruises. We went through the 'They're too old,' and we went through the, 'Oh, they can't play anymore.' We went through being the fourth seed and everyone saying we're going to get beat by Cleveland and beat by Orlando.

"We're here now, in spite of what everybody else thinks. So you think we're going to just let this go? No, we accepted this challenge. Bring it. We want it. Point blank, it's that simple. We could have gave up a long time ago. We could have gave up and looked forward to next year. But no, we're here.

"So we're going to take it while we're here. We've been through too many ups and downs."

Chris Forsberg covers the Celtics for ESPNBoston.com. Follow him on Twitter.