BOSTON - Injuries figured to be a problem for the aging Celtics during this condensed, lockout-shortened NBA season and so far they certainly have been.
The Celtics lost their first three games while captain Paul Pierce sat out with a bruised right heel, and center Jermaine O'Neal missed last night's game against Washington with a strained left hamstring suffered on Sunday against the Wizards.
A knee injury limited O'Neal to only 24 regular season games last year in his first Celtics season, but this injury isn't nearly as serious. He arrived last night intending to play, but trainer Ed Lacerte overruled him and he sat out. He expects to play tomorrow night against New Jersey.
"It's not bad," Boston coach Doc Rivers said. "Eddie just came to me and suggested that he didn't play. He didn't say, `No he can't play.' He suggested it. He just thought with the hamstring we just don't want to take any chances."
Rookie Greg Stiemsma made his first NBA start in O'Neal's place.