The Celtics have the third-best record in the NBA, but coach Doc Rivers is faced with a sobering reality. Until his core guys get healthy, his team can’t make the improvements he deems necessary.


Kevin Garnett missed his 10th game of the season last night, and Marquis Daniels was out for the 19th time with a left thumb sprain. In all, the Celtics have missed 99 man games due to injury, and Ray Allen and Kendrick Perkins are the only players on the team who have played all 39 games.


“If you can get everybody back after the All-Star break and start building your team, it’d be huge for you,” Rivers said. “We like our record, obviously, but we’re not building, if you know what I mean.


We’re winning games, and we’re hanging in there. But we’re not improving because of the injuries.”


Rivers said he hoped Garnett would be back “by the end of the week.” The C’s already dodged one bullet this week, as Paul Pierce whacked his sore right knee Sunday in practice. Pierce started last night’s game against the Mavericks, and Rivers said it was “just a ding” and the knee still has to get stronger following December’s surgery.

Rasheed Wallace, who missed three games with a sore left foot, also returned to the lineup last night. It’s been an ongoing battle for the C’s, and while the frustration has taken its toll, they’re finding positives.

“It’s just one of those situations that you deal with. Guys that haven’t played are getting great minutes, so there’s a couple of different things you’re working on — still keeping the execution just as tight,” Allen said. “For the long run, ultimately, that’s what is better for this team.”