Celtics to start Turner and Jerebko over Smart and Sullinger


Celtics to start Turner and Jerebko over Smart and Sullinger

BOSTON -- The Celtics, as expected, made some lineup changes for Game 3 on Friday night, and big ones they were.

After back-to-back slow starts in which the Celtics were forced to turn to small ball early on, theyr'e going to cut right to it from the start.

"We're going to start [Evan] Turner for [Marcus] Smart and [Jonas] Jerebko for [Jared] Sullinger," coach Brad Stevens said. "So we'll go with Turner, Isaiah [Thomas], Jae [Crowder], Jerebko and Amir [Johnson].

"Obviously there’s some things from the starting group, as far as how we want to play, spacing-wise, those types of things factor in. Obviously, Jerebko gives you spacing, gives you some defensive versatility on the two bigs and then Turner has been, along with Isaiah, really able to get into the paint and do certain things and consistently be able to attack throughout the first few games. I think that’s that, Sully and Smart are still going to play, they’re still going to play big parts for us. I’ve said this before about the guards, you can just kinda throw a dart with those four guards and, Smart being the fourth one tonight, they’re all going to play 30-plus minutes for us on most nights.

If this is a lineup that doesn't sound very familiar, it's because it hasn't been used at many times this season. Perhaps Kelly Olynyk would get the start over Olynyk for the needed spacing, but he's out with a shoulder injury that limited him in Game 1 and kept him out of Game 2.

In fact, Stevens could only make light of just how little this starting lineup has been used this season . . . and now at the most important time, too.

"They’ve played a whole 33 possessions together. They’re plus-20," Stevens quipped. "So the sample size from a analytical viewpoint is not strong. But the one thing is you practice all year, you try different things, you’re going to have moments like this, especially with Avery and Kelly out, where you have to do something like that, and there will be groups off the bench that haven’t played much together, too. Any lineup with Terry [Rozier] or R.J. [Hunter] or both has not played very much. That’s why we practice all year, that’s why you play. You find a synergy in practice, you believe that what you’re doing is right, and you go out and do it."

You wouldn't say that Game 3 of the first round is the time to experiment with lineups and rotations, but Stevens has been left with no choice after Paul Millsap, Al Horford, Jeff Teague, and Kyle Korver have made them pay over the first two games.

When Hawks coach Mike Budenholzer sat down for his press conference after Stevens, he wasn't aware of their lineup changes. He also didn't seem fazed by them upon getting the news from the media.

The Hawks are staying the course.

"I think just following us, we’re not a team that focuses on matchups or the other team and who they do or don’t play very much," Budenholzer said. "We’re gonna continue to do kind of what we’ve been doing during the course of the series. You kind of see those lineups at different times, so to see them to start the game—we’ll take a couple minutes, I’m sure, when I go back—but just generally speaking we’re a lot more focused on what we do and how we play and what’s important to us. Changing the lineups for the opponent doesn’t usually affect us that much."

The Hawks may not change much based on the news of the Celtics' starting lineup changes, but the Celtics sure hope they'll be forced to once things get going.

Irving's procedure means Celtics may add player via 'hardship roster exception'

Irving's procedure means Celtics may add player via 'hardship roster exception'

With Kyrie Irving undergoing a “minimally invasive procedure” on Saturday, the Boston Celtics may look to add a player via the “hardship roster exception” that only teams that are significantly impacted by injuries, are eligible for. 

MORE - Doctor: Irving could return in 'three to four weeks'

The Celtics won’t have a clear sense of what the timetable will be for Irving’s return until after his procedure is performed. 

But it’s likely to be at least a couple weeks which at the earliest would put Irving’s return just before the playoffs. 

In order to qualify for the NBA’s hardship roster exception, at least four players must miss a minimum of three consecutive games, and later be deemed to be out for an additional two weeks. 

Gordon Hayward (dislocated left ankle) and Daniel Theis (torn meniscus, left knee) are out for the season, and Marcus Smart (right thumb) recently underwent surgery that will keep him sidelined for at least another five weeks. 

An independent doctor will determine if the extent of the aforementioned injuries as well as the recovery time for Irving, meet the two-week criteria to be eligible for the hardship roster exception. 

Once that’s determined, Boston will be given a hardship roster exception to use on a player for the remainder of the regular season but won’t be eligible for the postseason. 

If Boston does add a player, look for him to come from the Gatorade League, possibly their G-League affiliate, the Maine Red Claws. 

Boston has a collection of guards who have helped fill the void left by Irving’s absence, but Boston has not been able to address the loss of Daniel Theis. 

Keep an eye on former No. 1 overall pick Anthony Bennett, a 6-foot-8 forward who averaged 16.0 points, 7.6 rebounds and 1.6 assists for the Red Claws this season. 

MORE - Hayward gives update on rehab

Boston has a 45-day cap on the use of its two-way players with the parent team, but that limitation ends tomorrow which means guard/forward Jabari Bird and guard Kadeem Allen can earn the league minimum for every day they are with the Celtics going forward in the regular season. That can provide some depth to a Celtics team that because of injuries, can use every healthy body they can find.


Doctor: Irving could return in 'three to four weeks'

Doctor: Irving could return in 'three to four weeks'

Kyrie Irving could be back on the court in time for the Celtics to begin the playoffs.

Or not.

Irving will have what the Celts are describing as a "minimally invasive procedure" on his injured left knee Saturday. NBC Sports Boston talked to Dr. Christopher Chihlas from Southcoast Health -- who has not examined Irving but is familiar with his type of injury -- about how long Irving may be sidelined.

"A minimally invasive procedure is basically an arthroscopy," said Dr. Chihlas. "His return to play is mostly dependent on what is done . . . If it's just a cleanout, as we're being told, then -- best-case scenario -- we could see him back playing in three to four weeks."

But, he added, "it could be double that . . . depending upon what exactly is found . . . 

"The key here is the patella fracture (which Irving suffered during the 2015 playoffs). My feeling is that he's suffering a bit of the consequence of the patella fracture, which is a fracture into the knee joint . . . [He] may need to have this done periodically to get him through the rest of his career."