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Sports

April 17, 2009

Lost ticket

Defiant Rivers: 'We can beat anyone with what we have'

WALTHAM — The thought of Kevin Garnett sitting on the Celtics bench, in a suit instead of shorts, had Kendrick Perkins in a pensive mood.

"It messes up his head," he said from his courtside chair at practice. "He can't take it."

Garnett's psyche is only one of the casualties caused by his swollen right knee, which we learned yesterday will likely keep him out of action for the entire postseason.

"I rule him out for the playoffs," coach Doc Rivers said of Garnett, who's suffering from a strained tendon. "I hope I'm wrong."

So that's it. After a month of speculation, the 6-foot-11 forward, the heart of the defending champs, is gone. The mood at Sports Authority Training Center was predictably subdued in the aftermath of the announcement, which came during Rivers' morning interview on WEEI. The coach, who's as kind to the media as any public figure in Boston, sounded defiant at times.

"This isn't a concession speech from us," Rivers said before adding, "We can beat anyone, anywhere, with what we have."

That, of course, is debatable, what with top seed Cleveland, led by LeBron James, storming to a 66-16 record. Boston did go 18-7 without Garnett. But that statistic doesn't really do the man justice.

"He's the unquestioned leader of the ballclub," Paul Pierce said.

Now what? Even without Garnett, the Celtics aren't going to totally melt under the playoff lights. But I think it's time to temper expectations. When Tom Brady went down last September, even the most delusional of us (including me for a while) believed the Patriots would continue to roll. But ultimately, Matt Cassel — who had a great year, considering the circumstances — just didn't have enough to push the secondary-deprived Pats into the playoffs.

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