Boston Celtics leading scorer Paul Pierce will miss the rest of the season, as will Milwaukee Bucks counterpart Michael Redd. Their absence may give both teams a better chance to get their stars the best possible help for next season.
Ravaged by injuries with the season winding down, the Celtics and Bucks are essentially playing for lottery position as the Eastern Conference’s worst teams conclude their season series Friday night.
Pierce (sore left elbow) will sit out the final four games for Boston (23-55), the team announced Wednesday. Two days earlier, Milwaukee (26-52) said it will finish the season without Redd (left knee).
The Celtics own the worst record in the East and the Bucks are only three games ahead of them, putting both in good position for high picks in the draft lottery to bring in top talent to complement Pierce and Redd.
“Obviously, we are not going anywhere,” said Boston forward Ryan Gomes, who scored a game-high 26 points in a 102-94 loss to Philadelphia on Wednesday night. “We are trying to learn as a team, learning to play together. That’s what we have to look forward to—get better as individuals because the wins and losses aren’t going to affect us at all.”
Pierce, who had surgery on his left elbow last offseason and had an infection in it earlier this season, hasn’t played since re-aggravating the injury in a 105-96 double-overtime victory over Orlando on March 28. He averaged 25.0 points and 5.9 rebounds in a career-low 47 games.
Celtics coach Doc Rivers said there was no point in rushing Pierce back.
“I don’t think it makes any sense,” Rivers said. “I just think it’s dangerous and not smart to do.”
Rivers added that forward Brian Scalabrine will also sit out the rest of the season, and there’s a good chance forward Al Jefferson and guard Delonte West will, too. Scalabrine has missed 11 straight games with a strained left hamstring, West has been out five straight games with a sprained left ankle and Jefferson six with a bruised left knee.
Boston has lost five straight, a skid that began with a 98-89 loss at Milwaukee on April 4. The Celtics won the previous two games against the Bucks this season.
Milwaukee, down to only one regular starter, lost 104-98 to Indiana on Wednesday night. The Bucks have dropped 11 of 12, with the only win coming against the Celtics.
Injuries have given an opportunity to players like Dan Gadzuric and rookie David Noel, who each had a season-high 18 points for Milwaukee on Wednesday. Noel’s previous high was 11 points on Nov. 22 against Philadelphia, and Gadzuric’s was 15 on Nov. 10 at Washington.
“It just gives you confidence for the next season and also just gives you confidence for the rest of this season,” Noel said. “I know I’m going to get a lot of playing time in these last couple of games, so hopefully I can continue to bring it like that.”