Courtney Lee was asked before the game about Jared Sullinger, out for the season with back surgery, and the Celtics guard knocked on the polished wooden interior of his locker.

By the third quarter Lee was on the floor, crunched over in pain after colliding with a pick.

The Celtics had every right to ask if it could possibly get worse at that point. But Lee walked back onto the floor after the ensuing timeout, and this season of creeping attrition continued.

"To be honest I thought he was trying to sell a foul," cracked Doc Rivers. "That one didn't get to me at all."

Again, the Celtics faced only a mild test in yesterday's 97-84 win over the equally decimated Magic, though they aren't going to quibble about the quality of their current three-game winning streak. The win pulled them back to .500 (23-23).

Sullinger, presumably from his hospital bed, tweeted, "Gino time in the garden. Look for KG to start dancing lol" late in the fourth quarter.

It was garbage time, though every active Celtic save for rookie Fab Melo was a regular due to the manpower shortage.

They are, as Rivers said, a committee — a committee of point guards thanks to Rajon Rondo's absence, and now a committee of rebounders due to the loss of their valuable rookie.

"It shows that we have a lot of fight in us," said Kevin Garnett. "Doc made his (expletive) comments about us being soft and (expletive), but we're a team that will fight. We're very competitive and very prideful."

Paul Pierce, for the first time since the fall of 2005, recorded his third straight double-figure rebounding game with 11, to go along with 14 points and a team-high seven assists. Pierce, Garnett and Brandon Bass, back together as the starting frontcourt, combined for 28 rebounds.