BOSTON -- Nagged by a right thigh bruise suffered in a win over Memphis earlier this month, Boston Celtics forward Kevin Garnett removed himself from Monday's practice at the Sports Authority Training Center in Waltham and told trainer Ed Lacerte of his malady.
When Paul Pierce spotted Garnett on the sideline -- a place the Celtics' captain had been imploring Garnett to visit more often as he works his way back from offseason knee surgery -- Pierce strolled over and playfully chided him about finally taking a breather.
"Paul walked over to him and said, 'Wow, someone's growing up.' You know, instead of fighting through it," coach Doc Rivers said Tuesday night after his team won without Garnett, beating the Indiana Pacers 103-94 at TD Garden. "[Garnett] has that warrior mentality and sometimes it's to his detriment. [Monday] he did a good job. He wanted to fight it [Tuesday] and then he kind of just said, 'You're right.'"
Garnett was a last-minute scratch after Rivers spotted him walking uncomfortably during the team's pregame walkthrough. Rivers stressed the injury is not related to the knee and that Garnett would travel with the Celtics to Orlando for a Christmas Day showdown with the Magic.
The Celtics struggled mightily without their 12-time All-Star in the first half Tuesday before pulling out the win. But Pierce said it is more important in the long term to keep Garnett healthy than sweat a random December game.
"The fate of how far we go lies on how healthy Kevin is," said Pierce. "So you definitely want him to be all right. From the look of things, he's going to be all right."
The Celtics know all too well what it's like to be without Garnett. His bum knee kept him out of last year's playoffs, including the seven-game defeat at the hands of the Magic in the Eastern Conference semifinals.
While Garnett refuses to talk any more about his knee, and his recent play suggests it truly is a nonfactor, the Celtics clearly value keeping the Big Ticket in top shape.
"I decided when we went into the walkthrough," said Rivers. "Just the way he was walking. And I just told Rasheed [Wallace] and Kevin to switch spots. I hadn't told Kevin at that point. I just told him to go to the second unit, let Rasheed walk through the stuff. And then after that I told him that I was shutting him down."
While Garnett will be with the team on its four-game road trip, if the thigh acts up, don't be surprised if Rivers benches KG again.
After all, defeating Orlando on Christmas Day would be nice. But the Celtics -- and a healthy Garnett -- would much rather get their revenge in June.
Chris Forsberg is a roving reporter for ESPNBoston.com. Follow him on Twitter.