Thomas, Crowder dinged up heading into playoffs

Thomas, Crowder dinged up heading into playoffs

BOSTON – To come back and beat Miami 98-88 after having been down by as many as 26 points is the kind of victory that’s good for the mental health of the Boston Celtics.

But physically-speaking, the Green Team will enter the playoffs against the Atlanta Hawks on Saturday with two key players – Isaiah Thomas and Jae Crowder - dealing with more than your usual late-season bumps and bruises.

Thomas has been dealing with a left (shooting) wrist injury all season, but it hasn’t been much of an issue until the last couple of weeks when the pain has been re-aggravated by multiple hard falls to the floor.

Crowder missed eight consecutive games with a high right ankle sprain which is still giving him some discomfort.

Both players refuse to let their health issues become an issue in this series.

“It’s hurting but I’ve just got to figure it out,” Thomas said. “Continue to get treatment, figure out what we’ll do with the next couple days and there’s no excuses.”

Said Crowder: “I think I’m as good as I’m going to be. I’m able to play with it. I know what I can and can’t do at this point. Moving forward, I think it’s getting better for sure. I’m going to keep doing stuff the training staff is telling me to do. I’m going to take these next few days and really get it prepared for a series in the playoffs.”

Thomas’ injury won’t prevent him from playing, but the last few games have shown noticeable slippage on his part and it’s not solely because teams are defending him better or differently.

In Boston’s last three games, Thomas has averaged just 18 points (more than four points below his season average) while shooting 34.0 percent (16-for-47) from the field while averaging nearly as many assists (5.3) as turnovers (3.7) per game.

As for Crowder, he has played in seven games since returning to the lineup following his ankle injury.

He averages 14.4 points per game this season, but has only strung together back-to-back double digit scoring games once. And those performances came against New Orleans and the Los Angeles Lakers, two of the NBA’s worst teams this season.

He’ll be the first to tell you that the timing of his injury in the grand scheme of things, could not be any worse.

“It sucks right now, especially where we’re at in the season,” Crowder said earlier this week. “What we’re trying to accomplish here. But it’s a part of it. I’m doing what I gotta do, my teammates are behind me. I’ll be prepared to play each and every day.”

NBC Sports Boston Breakfast Pod: Reserve-heavy Celtics keep at it, top Trail Blazers

NBC Sports Boston Photo

NBC Sports Boston Breakfast Pod: Reserve-heavy Celtics keep at it, top Trail Blazers

1:13 - The Celtics came away with a 105-100 win in Portland on Friday night. Find out why Chris Mannix is calling this the best Celtics win of the season.

6:05 - Mannix discusses details about Kyrie Irving’s ‘minimally invasive’ procedure on his knee and what his level of concern is with A. Sherrod Blakely and Gary Tanguay.

10:03 - Michael Holley and Tom Curran discuss what NFL players, including Devin McCourty, are doing beyond the gridiron by being active in criminal justice reform discussions held at Harvard this week.



Morris getting it done for Celtics on both ends of the floor

Morris getting it done for Celtics on both ends of the floor

When you think about Marcus Morris these days, big-time scoring immediately comes to mind. 

But in Boston’s 105-100 comeback win over Portland, Morris’ contributions went beyond the game-high 30 points he dropped on the Blazers.

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“Coach (Brad Stevens) is doing a great job of getting me the ball in my spots and my teammates are finding me,” Morris told reporters after the win. “And I’m just coming through.”

He’s providing strong play and a tremendous presence at both ends of the floor which has been critical to the team navigating some choppy waters with a number of regular rotation players – namely Kyrie Irving – out with injuries.

“One thing is, he’s healthy,” said Boston’s Al Horford, referring to the sore knee that limited Morris earlier this season and at times forced him to miss games. “And the other is, he’s just more confident, he’s playing very assertive. He’s playing great right now, in a really good rhythm.”

Said Stevens: “That’s been him (Morris). As he’s continued to feel better; I think physically he’s felt as good as he’s felt. He’s comfortable in our system and we need him to score. If you’re a basketball player and your job is to score, that’s a pretty good job.”

And it’s one that even with all the injuries Boston has played through, few envisioned him being such an integral part of the offense. 

Morris’ calling card prior to arriving in Boston was his defense. 

But Morris has made it known that his focus on the floor is to be as complete a player as possible.

“I’m not trying to just limit myself to just being that scorer,” Morris said. “Also, on the defensive end I think I’m bringing it; my defense has gotten a lot better, especially my on-the-ball defense. I’m trying to be that all-around player and not just an offensive player … but I can score.”