Celtics forward Jae Crowder playing tonight at Golden State seemed unlikely prior to Thursday’s game at Portland.
But after the 116-109 loss to the Blazers, both Crowder and coach Brad Stevens left the door ajar that he could be in the starting lineup against the Warriors.
Crowder on the floor tonight would certainly increase the chances (as slim as they might be) of the Celtics pulling off the ultimate upset by throwing a monkey wrench into the Golden State Warriors’ unprecedented run of success, which includes winning 54 in a row at home.
For Crowder, who returned to the Celtics lineup on Thursday after missing the previous eight games with a high right ankle sprain, his motivation to play is far more self-serving for him and the Celtics.
“I need the conditioning going into the playoffs,” Crowder, who had a double-double of 13 points and 10 rebounds, told reporters following the loss to the Blazers. “I felt very fatigued [on Thursday]. My legs were heavier than I ever played with. I need these seven games to get back in the shape that I’m capable of playing at.”
As the numbers bear out, the Celtics are a significantly weaker team in just about every statistical category without Crowder in the lineup.
He has become the ultimate glue guy, doing so many little things that have contributed to Boston having its best season under third-year coach Brad Stevens with another seven games left to play.
All involved agree a decision on whether he plays will not be rushed.
“Ed [Lacerte, the team’s head trainer] said he’s going to look at him after the game, look at him in the morning and they’ll make that decision in the morning,” Stevens told reporters on Thursday night after the loss. “And then they’ll let me know.”
Another factor in whether Crowder will play has to be the proximity of this game to the start of the playoffs.
The last thing the Celtics want to do is put Crowder on the floor less than full strength, against the best team not just in the NBA but potentially the best regular season team ever.
“It’s up to me and how I feel,” Crowder said. “Ed is telling me to expect to be a little sore. But if I can play through it, I’ll play through it.”