ATLANTA The Boston Celtics aren't the only ones with a weakened roster due to injuries.
Atlanta Hawks coach Larry Drew confirmed that Al Horford will not play in Game 1 of their playoff series against the Boston Celtics on Sunday.
Horford had left pectoral surgery earlier this year and has missed all but 11 games this season.
The Hawks aren't sure if they'll have Horford's replacement, Zaza Pachulia available, either. He is suffering from a sprained left foot injury.
Drew said the team will not decide until shortly before tip-off if he will play on Sunday.
The Hawks have used Jason Collins at center lately, but won't rule out sliding Josh Smith over to the middle or possibly giving more minutes in the frontcourt to rookie Ivan Johnson or veteran Erick Dampier.
"We've had that issue a great majority of the season," Drew said. "Obviously with Al being gone, we've had games with Zaza out and we've made the adjustments. Obviously, Jason Collins is a guy that we like in this type of position because he's done so well with it. And we can go small at the five-spot, playing Josh at the five, Ivan at the five or we may move Damp, and give him some minutes. We're going to have to feel our way through this."
Smith, who averages a team-high 9.6 rebounds per game, is well aware that he and the rest of his teammates have to pick it up on the boards against the Celtics who come into Sunday's game as one of the NBA's worst - No. 29, to be exact - rebounding teams this season. The Hawks have had their problems as well, also ranking in the NBA's bottom 10 in rebounds per game.
"We gotta gang rebound," Smith told CSNNE.com. "Players have to get in there and rebound, including the guards."
BOSTON – If there’s one thing we’ve learned about Brad Stevens in his time as Celtics coach, it’s that he’s not about that sugarcoating life.
When it comes to his team, he’s about as transparent a coach as you will find in the NBA.
So, when he says his team has been outplayed in both of its first two games, he’s not doing it as some stealth rallying cry.
He’s doing it because it’s where they are at this moment.
“So, whatever that’s attributable to, we’ve got to fix it, we’ve got to be better at it, regardless of when it is,” Stevens said.
Boston will get another crack at it on Friday night against a Philadelphia squad that, like the Celtics, is also searching for its first win of the season.
Struggling to win games is something the Sixers have grown accustomed to in recent years.
But the Celtics have been on an upward trajectory every year under Stevens’ watch. And while it’s far too soon to panic over their start, players understand that change must come about soon if they are to get on the right track and have the kind of season they envision for themselves as a group.
“Brad’s right, we have a lot of plays to clean up and a lot of stuff to get better at, but that’s’ the beauty of it,” said Jaylen Brown. “We got a really good group and a lot of young guys – we’re going to move forward and take that challenge. We’re going to win some games; we’re going to win a lot of games here in Boston.”
But doing so won’t be easy, not with the Celtics still trying to find the best way to move forward following Gordon Hayward’s left ankle injury that may keep him out for the remainder of this season.
The Celtics have led in the fourth quarter of both losses before eventually failing to make the necessary plays down the stretch to ensure victory.
Some of that has to do with the unfamiliarity - not a surprise when you add 10 new players to the mix in one offseason. Another contributing factor is, because of injuries, there are players elevated to more prominent roles who were otherwise seen as simply depth additions at the end of the bench.
Whatever the reasons may be, the bottom line is clear: the Celtics have played two games where they were outplayed enough to lose.
“I don’t want to make the excuse that we’re a young team, but we are,” said Kyrie Irving. “We have some experience here and we have to utilize that and continue to exude confidence in young guys and ourselves and understand the game comes in waves. There are going to be ups and downs. We have to be able to withstand other team’s runs as well as hit back and have that hit-first mentality in the first quarter, second quarter, third quarter and fourth quarter. Once we start understanding we have to put a complete game together, myself being at the head of the ball and being better with it and putting guys in the right spots, we’ll be fine.”