Crowder (ankle) a game-time decision vs. Blazers


Crowder (ankle) a game-time decision vs. Blazers

Jae Crowder’s return to the basketball floor appears to be hours away. 

The team is having its morning shoot-around, which is usually a relatively light affair in terms of wear and tear on the body.

Prior to the shoot-around, Crowder talked to reporters about his status heading into tonight’s game against the Trail Blazers in Portland. 

“Feeling pretty good; minor soreness,” Crowder said.

If Crowder does return tonight after missing the eight previous games with a high right ankle sprain, don’t get too comfortable seeing him in the starting lineup.

Crowder suiting up tonight likely means he will be held out of Friday night’s game at Golden State.

While no definitive decision has been made, there are clear indications that Crowder will play tonight and sit tomorrow night’s game out.

Celtics coach Brad Stevens said he planned to talk with Crowder about the best course of action following the team’s shoot-around.

“It makes sense that he wouldn’t play in a back-to-back right now,” Stevens told reporters.

Crowder said he believes that’s the likely direction things will take with his return.

“I don’t know which game,” he said. “I don’t know if it will be up to me. I wouldn’t mind playing tomorrow [against Golden State], or this one. I like this one because it gives me a chance to really get back into the groove of things but with a slower paced game. Tomorrow will be a much faster paced game. That’s the only reason why I would choose this one over tomorrow. We’ll see.”

Stevens was later asked about who would ultimately make that call.

“This is never my decision,” Stevens said. “It’s a medical and player decision.”

He was later asked about if Crowder were healthy enough to play which of the two upcoming games would he be held out.

“If he can go one or the other,” Stevens said, “He’ll play tonight.”

Crowder’s return has been looked upon eagerly by his teammates who have been a .500 team in his absence.

And when you start to look at other key stats such as scoring, defensive rating and shooting percentage, all have taken a noticeable dip since Crowder sustained his injury against Houston on March 11.

“Anytime you get one of your real key contributors back, there’s going to be that case,” Stevens said. “And certainly another guy who makes a lot of effort plays and a guy that makes it easy on everybody because he has positional versatility, swing to the 4 [power forward], swing to the 3 [small forward], it opens up opportunities for everybody. Those guys are helpful no question.”

And while his teammates are happy to have him back, Crowder knows he’s not going to step back on the floor and immediately pick up where he left off prior to the injury.

Crowder saw this first-hand at Wednesday’s practice.

“On certain plays I was a step behind,” he said. “All the guys were telling me I looked like I’m ready to play. But I felt I was a step behind. That’s probably [about] getting my timing back. I’ll be fine.”

Crowder said there were a couple of moves that still gave him some discomfort, like planting and pushing off.

“I don’t have all of my explosiveness off my right foot,” he said. “It’s limited but I still feel I’m able to play.”


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."


Terry Rozier's rise should continue without Kyrie Irving

AP Photo

Terry Rozier's rise should continue without Kyrie Irving

When it comes to Western Conference powers, the casual NBA fan will immediately think of the defending champion Golden State Warriors, or the Houston Rockets who loom as their biggest threat. 

And then there’s the next-best team in the West, Portland, which has been sneaky good this season with very little fanfare. 

Boston will see first-hand just how talented the Blazers are when these two square off tonight.

Portland’s improved play of late (they’ve won 13 of their last 14 games) is fueled in large part by them taking more 3-pointers. 

Prior to Jan. 1, the Blazers averaged 24.6 three-point attempts which ranked 26th in the NBA. Since then, they have increased their 3-point attempt average to 30.5 which ranks 12th in the league.

Couple that with a defense that has been among the league’s best most of this season, and voila! – you’ve got a team that’s playing great basketball at just the right time. 

But the Celtics on many levels, while undermanned because of injuries, are still an elite team defensively.

And the one area where Boston has been strong all season, is defending the three-point shot.

Opponents are shooting a league-low 34.1 percent against Boston from 3-point range this season.

And while Boston’s defense isn’t the same when you’re talking about not having a Marcus Smart in the lineup, the Celtics are still a formidable foe at that end of the floor. 

In Boston’s last four games, all without Smart, Boston’s defensive rating is 98.8 which is good for the fourth-best in the NBA in that time period. 

“We’ve been a next man up kind of team all season,” Boston’s Semi Ojeleye told NBC Sports Boston. “That’s why it’s important to always stay ready. Because you know at some point on this team, you’re number’s going to be called and you’ll get your opportunity.”

Here are five under-the-radar story lines as the Boston Celtics seek to continue their strong play this season against Western Conference foes, at Portland. 



Terry Rozier has been a different kind of player ever since he got his first start a few weeks ago filling in for Kyrie Irving. The third-year guard has scored in double figures 20 straight games, a career first for him. In that span he has averaged 15.6 points, 5.0 rebounds and 4.3 assists while shooting 41.9 percent from the field and 42.7 percent from 3-point range.


If tonight’s game plays out as expected, points will be at a premium. Boston has the league’s top-ranked defense (101.2) even as its defensive rating has slipped to No. 5 in the league (103.1) since the all-star break. Meanwhile, the Blazers have the seventh-best defensive rating (104.3) this season, but are third (101.0) in the NBA since the all-star break.


You will be hard-pressed to find a player who wouldn’t mind a little rest with the playoffs less than a month away. But are a couple days without games too much rest? It certainly looks that way for the Celtics who are 4-6 this season with two or more days of rest before a game. The Portland Trail Blazers are at the opposite end of the success spectrum with a 10-3 record when they’ve had two days of rest before a game. 


Both Boston and Portland have been among the NBA’s better defensive rebounding teams all season. But they have each stepped up their defensive rebounding play this month. Portland, the fourth-best defensive rebounding team this season, have grabbed a league-best 83.2 percent in March while the Celtics, the sixth-best defensive rebounding team this season, are up to No. 3 (80.6 percent) this month.


Jayson Tatum is nearing the end of one of the best rookie seasons by a Boston Celtic ever, well on his way to statistically cementing himself as one of the franchise’s best first-year players ever. The 6-foot-8 forward is 35 points shy of tallying 1,000 points which would make him the ninth rookie ever to do so for Boston, with the last to do so being Ron Mercer during the 1997-1998 season.