Celtics' regular lineup gaining rhythm will have to wait with Thomas out

Celtics' regular lineup gaining rhythm will have to wait with Thomas out

BOSTON – The road to a strong finish for the Celtics will, for now at least, not include Isaiah Thomas.
The team announced on Thursday afternoon that he will miss the next two games – at Brooklyn on Friday and Philadelphia on Sunday – with a right knee bruise.
While it doesn’t appear to be a long-term issue, it does deliver a blow of sorts to Boston’s quest to find a nice rhythm with their preferred starting five which has compiled an impressive 21-7 record this season.
But that’s the problem.
We’re 68 games into the season and Boston’s best starting unit has missed 40 games together, which will only be added to in the next few days.
Some will see Thomas sitting out as Boston’s version of “strategic rest” for one of its best players - he's the Celtics' top scorer and is the NBA's second-leading scorer at 29.2 points per game - with the playoffs right around the corner.
Thomas suffered the injury near the end of the third quarter Wednesday in a 117-104 win over Minnesota, but still managed to play later in the fourth.
While there’s never a good time to get hurt, the timing of Thomas missing more games is about as good as it gets.
On Friday, they face a Brooklyn team that has the worst record in the NBA (12-54) although they have played better, more competitive recently.
And on Sunday, they have an afternoon matinee against Philadelphia (24-43), which has played teams closer of late, but still ranks among the NBA’s worst teams.

The Celtics host Washington on Monday night. The Wizards trail Boston by a game-and-a-half for the No. 2 seed in the East. 
The silver lining now is the same silver lining that we’ve seen from Boston this season.
Playing without a key player has afforded an opportunity for another Celtic or two, to step up and contribute in a more meaningful way.
We have seen some of Jaylen Brown’s brightest moments come this season as a fill-in for Jae Crowder or Avery Bradley.
Jonas Jerebko has had strong performances as a replacement for Al Horford.
And guys on the bench who have had an elevated role courtesy of injuries, have also shown an ability to contribute.
Indeed, the next-man-up mentality has worked wonders for Boston this season and has been a vital cog in the team’s success which currently has them with the second-best record in the East.
Celtics coach Brad Stevens has options at his disposal for a replacement, but will likely go with Marcus Smart at the point, which then moves Terry Rozier up the pecking order where he will be the team’s backup point guard.
Whoever gets the starting nod, it won’t matter.
This team is better built to finish out the season successfully with one or two players out, than they were a year ago.
But for them to get past the first round and continue to progress through the playoffs, it has to be a collective, team effort.
Because if Thomas or any other top-of-the-rotation player for the Celtics isn’t healthy enough to play, Boston’s dreams of a long run in the playoffs will become a short-lived postseason nightmare.

Isaiah Thomas isn't ruling out return to Celtics

File Photo

Isaiah Thomas isn't ruling out return to Celtics

Isaiah Thomas back in green? Maybe there's a chance after all.

The former Celtics guard, now with the Lakers, started a Q&A session on Twitter and was asked whether he'd consider returning to Boston this offseason. This was his answer...

That's not a no.

Thomas has had a rough go of it since leaving the Celtics. His brief tenure in Cleveland didn't go according to plan, and things haven't gotten a whole lot better out in L.A. The 29-year-old is averaging 15.3 points per game just a year after averaging 28.9 with Boston.

Let the speculation begin.


Horford not making any excuses after C's rough outing vs Pelicans

Horford not making any excuses after C's rough outing vs Pelicans

Al Horford understands that there’s plenty of blame pie to go around following Boston’s 108-89 loss to New Orleans. 

Considering how Pelicans stud Anthony Davis dominated the game on so many levels Sunday night, Horford was quick to acknowledge his role in the loss. 

“He (Davis) was able to get behind our defense a lot,” Horford told reporters after the loss. “Some mistakes on my end; gotta give him credit. He dominated tonight. I’ll definitely take the blame for that.”

Davis finished with a double-double of 34 points and 11 rebounds, a total that would have been higher if not for the game being so lopsided which allowed Davis to head to the bench early in the fourth. 

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And Horford’s struggles defensively were just as problematic on offense as the five-time All-Star tallied just six points on 3-for-11 shooting to go with four rebounds and three assists. 

Boston has been a team whose collective sums have fueled their success. 

But Horford understands he has to be a high impact performer, a job that’s even more vital when key starters like Kyrie Irving (left knee soreness) and Jaylen Brown (concussion) are out as well as top reserves Marcus Smart (right thumb) and Daniel Theis (torn meniscus). 

And by Horford’s own admission, he just didn’t bring it on Sunday at a level to give him and the Celtics a legit shot at winning the game.

“Defensively we had too many breakdowns,” Horford said. “And the game got away from us in the second half. So there’s no excuses. I didn’t give us a chance, either; missing a lot of looks offensively. I just need to be better.”

And he’ll have to be if Boston (47-23) is to get back on track with a win on Tuesday against a talented Oklahoma City squad led by Russell Westbrook, Paul George and Carmelo Anthony. 

At full strength, the Thunder would be a significant challenge for the Celtics. 

But having a roster with a number of key players out with injuries, it becomes even more imperative for Boston’s top players to elevate their play. 

And as you scan this Celtics roster and examine those who are healthy enough to play, it’s clear that Horford more than any other Boston player, has to find a way to become more impactful.

Certainly, more points and rebounds would help. 

But as we’ve seen time and time again with Horford, often his greatest contributions to winning games don’t necessarily show up in the final box score. 

That being said, a six-point, four-rebound game doesn’t cut it. 

Horford has to be better, something he knows better than anyone. 

“I’ll definitely look at the film and see how I can be better individually,” Horford said. “The good thing about the NBA, is we have a chance to play on Tuesday. Hopefully we’ll learn from this game and be ready to go Tuesday at home.”