The Celtics will play a 10th straight game without their star Wednesday night as Wallace returns to Detroit for his first appearance against the Pistons since leaving them last summer.
Detroit acquired Wallace from Atlanta on Feb. 19, 2004, and the enigmatic big man averaged 13.0 points and 7.8 rebounds during the 2004 postseason as the Pistons captured their third NBA championship.
Wallace helped the team return to the playoffs each of the last five seasons before the rebuilding Pistons (14-26) let him go as a free agent.
Expected to play a supporting role in Boston, the Celtics (27-12), have had to rely more heavily on the veteran as Garnett recovers from a knee injury. Wallace also missed three straight games last week due to a sore foot, but returned in time for a 99-90 home loss to Dallas on Monday night.
“I thought Rasheed was doing a terrific job on Dirk,” Celtics coach Doc Rivers said. “Not having Kevin … knowing Rasheed was the only other guy, that put us in a tough situation.”
The Celtics went 18-7 without Garnett during the 2008-09 regular season and advanced to within a game of the Eastern Conference finals while he was out with another knee injury. They haven’t fared as well without their feared power forward this season, however.
The loss to Dallas was Boston’s third straight at home as it fell to 5-5 with Garnett sidelined. The Celtics are allowing an average of 99.6 points without the 2007-08 NBA defensive player of the year, nearly eight points higher than with him.
The Celtics were 3-0 against Detroit with Garnett in the lineup last season, but the Pistons won 105-95 at Boston on March 1 while Garnett was out. Garnett said he could return Friday against Portland.
“I’m trying to be smart about injuries so that they don’t get worse,” he told the team’s official Web site. “I think I learned that last year the hard way.”
The Celtics will be trying to avoid a season high-tying third straight loss.
Detroit has dropped 14 of 17. The Pistons followed a 13-game losing streak with three straight victories, but that run ended with a 99-91 loss at New York on Monday.
A number of the team’s key players were missing against the Knicks, as Ben Gordon(notes), Will Bynum(notes) and Tayshaun Prince(notes) dealt with injuries while Richard Hamilton(notes) was out with an upset stomach. Chris Wilcox(notes) played eight minutes before going down with a back problem.
It’s unclear who will be available as the Pistons begin a six-game homestand. Detroit won its last two at home to improve to 10-9 at The Palace, but Boston has won three straight and five of six there, including postseason.