BOSTON (AP) — It's a good thing for the Boston Celtics that the NBA rescinded Kendrick Perkins' technical foul and nixed his suspension.
He might be the only big man they have left to guard Orlando Magic center Dwight Howard.
Perkins was ejected from Boston's 113-92 loss to Orlando in Game 5 of the Eastern Conference finals on Wednesday night after picking up two technicals in the first half. The league rescinded one on Thursday, clearing Perkins to play in Game 6 when Boston tries for the third time to eliminate the Magic and advance to the NBA finals.
"We know what we haven't done, and what we need to do," Celtics coach Doc Rivers said Thursday. "I think we'll be ready to do it tomorrow night."
Even with Perkins, the Celtics will still be short-handed trying to slow down Howard, who has averaged 26 points and 13 rebounds in the last two games as the Magic twice avoided elimination.
Backup Glen "Big Baby" Davis was diagnosed with a concussion after blacking out on the court from Howard's inadvertent elbow to his face in Game 5. Rasheed Wallace tweaked his back in the game and couldn't even sit down to watch film on Thursday.
Rivers said they are both gametime decisions. Reserve Marquis Daniels also sustained a concussion, and he has been all but ruled out for Friday night's game.
"Our mentality is: We just have to lace them up and go play," Rivers said. "We have a lot of bumps and bruises right now, but we'll be OK."
The Celtics need a victory Friday night to avoid a trip back to Orlando for a seventh game, where a Magic victory would make them the first team in NBA history to come back from a 3-0 deficit in a best-of-seven playoff series.
"I didn't like being in a 3-0 hole, but it's still doable. I don't think we've had a lack of belief," Orlando coach Stan Van Gundy said. "We can't go back and get those first three. ... I don't know why we didn't get at it, I don't know why we didn't play with the same type of energy in the first three games. I really do not know."
Only four times in North American pro sports history has a team come back from a 3-0 deficit. But the Magic wouldn't even be the first to do it this month in Boston: The Bruins led the NHL's Eastern Conference semis 3-0 before the Philadelphia Flyers came back to advance — celebrating in the very same TD Garden locker room where the Magic dress.
"I would doubt that players would get affected by what happened in another sport," Van Gundy said. "I would have a hard time believing that. I don't think most of our guys on any of our teams follow hockey very much."
What started as an unprecedented pipe dream — Boston had never even needed a sixth game after going up 3-0 — is now more realistic as the Magic gain confidence and the Celtics lose personnel.
"It's another closeout game on their home court," Magic forward Rashard Lewis said. "I think the game on Friday will most definitely be the hardest game of the playoffs that we've ever faced. They're a veteran team. They'll come out with a lot of energy and a lot of heart, and I'm sure they're not going to want to come back to Orlando."
Perkins was called for two technicals on Wednesday night — an automatic ejection — and since that gave him seven total in the playoffs he was in line for a mandatory one-game suspension. But the league rescinded the second "T'' on Thursday — taking the rare step of announcing it in a news release — clearing him to play.
"I knew he would play tomorrow," Rivers said. "I'm a little disappointed that both technicals weren't rescinded. I think they both should have been; I'll take the one. Unfortunately, we can't get those calls back. It clearly hurt us in Game 5 not having Perk in."
Also Thursday, the league upgraded a foul called on Pierce to a one-point flagrant foul. If Pierce amasses four flagrant foul points, he would also face an automatic one-game suspension.
"Paul's not going to be a guy that's going to have a ton of flagrant fouls," Rivers said. I don't think we have to worry about him getting to that number, that silly number."
Associated Press Writer Antonio Gonzalez in Orlando, Fla., contributed to this report.