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Bellyaching In Beantown

First the New England Patriots' Super Bowl loss, now this. If you haven't heard, the Celtics are hurting. Most noteably, two-thirds of the Celtics' Big Three appear to be in some serious pain.

Ray Allen admitted that his ankles are still sore more than 10 months after he had double-ankle surgery to remove bone spurs and scar tissues. But more important, Celtics Coach Doc Rivers acknowledged that Kevin Garnett could be out for a long time with an abdominal strain.

Garnett had missed the past three games, but the Celtics kept making it sound like the frontrunner for the league's most valuable player award would be back soon. Not anymore. Garnett won't play tonight against the Cleveland Cavaliers and will likely miss his reunion game in Minnesota on Friday. The worst part is the Celtics might not even take Garnett on the trip to his beloved 'Sota.

Ugh. Gosh, this hurts! I can't believe I have to go all out to beat Minnesota. I can't even travel for the rematch. No dinner with Prince and Jimmy Jam! (Photo by Brian Babineau/NBAE via Getty Images)

"There's no date (for his return)," Rivers told reporters in Boston on Monday. "It could be as early as this weekend or it could be after All-Star break. . .Hopefully, he's back before All-Star break, but if he's not, then we have that whole break, as well."

The Celtics have gone 2-1 without Garnett, beating Dallas and Miami - by 30 (!?!) in a game that Allen didn't play, either - and nearly beating Orlando on the road. Rivers got upset with reporters who suggested that the Celtics had been hiding the severity of the injury.

"This is the first time he's been out like this and he's gotten better each day as far as handling his emotions with not being able to play," Rivers said. "He's working hard. We have to be careful with that so he doesn't overdo it. . .I think it's one of those slow-healing things that there's no reason for us to take a gamble on."

If the Celtics are smart, they will sit Garnett for as long as possible. Abdominal injuries are not to be messed with. Three years ago, Etan Thomas had an abdominal strain that kept him out for 32 games. He came back, looked fine the rest of the season, until he aggravated the injury in the playoffs. The year before that, Gilbert Arenas had his longest extended absence prior to this season, as he missed 27 games because of a similar abdominal strain. Arenas, though, rushed back and had several ineffective games.

With the East so dreadful, the Celtics have already wrapped up a playoff spot with 36 wins, but it will be interesting to see if they can can stay atop the conference with just Paul Pierce and a hobbling Allen.

Making matters worse, former rival, the Los Angeles Lakers, stole some of the thunder of the Celtics' revival by pulling off that deal for Pau Gasol. Man, it must be rough being a Boston fan right now.

By Michael Lee  |  February 5, 2008; 8:00 AM ET
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