Celtics

Celtics won't be broken by Hayward's injury

Celtics won't be broken by Hayward's injury

BOSTON -- These are tough, heart-tugging times for the Boston Celtics, who are less than 24 hours removed from the gruesome left-ankle injury suffered by Gordon Hayward in the first quarter of their 102-99 loss at Cleveland on Tuesday.
 
Hayward is scheduled to have surgery today, and potentially could be out for the entire season.
 
As much as their hearts go out to Hayward and his family, the Celtics know they can’t spend too much time sulking. The nature of this business won’t allow them, evident by the fact the C's step back on the floor tonight to host the Milwaukee Bucks.
 
“You hurt for him,” said coach Brad Stevens. “He’s put in a lot of great work. I thought he had his most comfortable week as far as feeling like he was going to play really well. It’s a tough, tough deal but I guess that’s part of it, the risk of injury. I really feel for him.”
 
But in the same breath, Stevens is a realist.
 
He's been in the league long enough to know that grieving for a lost player won’t help that player in the short-term. Or the team, for that matter.

MORE ON GORDON HAYWARD

 
The best way the Celtics can help Hayward is to continue to compete in his absence.
 
We saw that in last night’s loss to the Cavaliers.
 
When Hayward was carted off the floor, the Celtics were ahead, 12-9. The lead disappeared and was eventually replaced by an 18-point deficit, only for Boston to chip away and eventually go ahead in the fourth quarter.
 
But down the stretch, too much LeBron James and Kevin Love would prove to be too much for the Celtics to overcome.
 
While the loss was disappointing, it gave the team some insight into how to fight on now that one of its main guys will be out for a significant amount of time.
 
We saw Jaylen Brown emerge from being a second-year pro on the rise into a matchup problem who dropped a career-high 25 points on the Cavs.
 
And Jayson Tatum reminded us all that he’s a teenager in age only, finishing with a double-double of 14 points and 10 rebounds. The last rookie to tally a double-double for the Celtics in his opening night debut was Larry Bird in 1979, who had an identical 14-point, 10-rebound line.


 
But Bird didn’t have to play most of that game with one of the then top-three Celtics out for all but the game’s first five minutes.
 
When it comes to adversity, NBA players don’t have the luxury to pick which ones to handle and which ones to pass on. They either step up to the challenge or be consumed by it.
 
Under Stevens, Door Number One is the only option under consideration.
 
And since Stevens has been in Boston, his players have risen to the challenge.
 
That doesn’t mean they'll win every game, but they've shown the ability to at least be competitive. And in defeat, they'll refuse to use injury as an excuse.
 
That means younger players like Brown and Tatum will assume a larger role at both ends of the floor if Boston is to make it through these tough times relatively unscathed.
 
Veterans like Al Horford and Marcus Smart will be leaned upon more heavily to be leaders, both on and off the floor.
 
And Stevens, considered by many to be one of the better coaches in the NBA, will once again be tasked with making on-the-fly adjustments with his lineup and rotations under less-than-ideal conditions.
 
Nobody hurts more than Stevens when it comes to Hayward’s injury. Remember, he's known him longer than anyone associated with the Celtics, having recruited Hayward to play for Butler. It was the platform that launched both of their NBA careers.
 
Which is why the way he approaches not having Hayward is the example for all his players to follow.
 
Shortly after the loss to the Cavs, Stevens was asked about moving on while handling the emotional dynamics of losing Hayward for an extended period of time.
 
“We’ll be ready to play [tonight],” Stevens said with a heightened level of seriousness in his voice that spoke to how important it was to him and his players that they came out and performed at their best on Tuesday against Cleveland.

And that's the blueprint required for them going forward if they hope to be successful in handling adversity as it comes their way.

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Morris out, Brown questionable for Pacers game Saturday

Morris out, Brown questionable for Pacers game Saturday

BOSTON – Boston made strengthening their depth at the wing position a priority during the offseason.

Well, that depth will be put to the test with the possibility of at least one and maybe two of their top wing players being out for Saturday’s game at Indiana.

Shortly after Boston’s 118-103 win over Orlando on Friday night, Celtics head coach Brad Stevens announced that Marcus Morris (left knee) would not travel with the team for Saturday’s game against the Pacers.

Also, Jaylen Brown will be attending the funeral of his best friend (Trevin Steede) in Georgia on Saturday and isn’t sure if he’ll be back with the team in time for Saturday’s game.

“My intention is to make it back. If I can, I’ll definitely be playing,” Brown said. “But we’ll see.”

The absence of Brown would be a huge blow for the Celtics.

Boston only returned four players from last season’s team, none of whom have improved their overall game as much as Brown did during the offseason.

He came into the season focused on being a lock-down defender.

But Gordon Hayward’s left ankle injury was a game-changer for all the Celtics, including Brown.

Not only would Brown be charged with being an elite defender, but Boston now needed the second-year wing player to become more of a scoring threat.

And to Brown’s credit, he has risen to the challenge.

In 20 games (all starts) this season, Brown has averaged 15.9 points per game which is second on the team to Kyrie Irving (22.9). In addition, Brown’s defense has been among the keys to Boston’s 17-3 start which is the best record in the NBA thus far this season.

His defensive rating of 95.0 is fifth among players to appear in at least 10 games this season, and tops among all second-year players. And of the four players ahead of him, two – Aron Baynes and Marcus Smart – are teammates.

But just like the Celtics gave Isaiah Thomas all the time he needed in dealing with the death of his sister right before the playoffs last season, a similar approach has been taken with Brown which he is admittedly appreciative of the organization for doing.

“Brad (Stevens) has been great in this process,” Brown said. “Just somebody to talk to, allowing me to deal with it in the best way our family and their family feels we can deal with it. He’s been great; we’ll see how it goes. Hopefully I can make it to Indiana; if not, I just have to re-group with my family and I’ll see you guys next game (against Detroit on Monday).”

While there's a chance that Brown will play against Indiana, the same can not be said for Morris who is definitely out.

Morris, who missed the first eight games of the season with left knee soreness, has been on a minutes restriction all season in addition to not being allowed to play in back-to-back games.

Following Friday’s game, Morris said the knee feels good but he understands the need to be cautious.

“It’s frustrating,” said Morris who acknowledged the decision was made by the coaching and medical staff. “I’m a competitor, so I want to be out there.”

He added, “Like I said, at this point I pretty much don’t have control over it when I’m playing. It’s a long season. I just want to be ready for June.”

With Morris out and Brown potentially out as well, the Celtics will be extremely thin and inexperienced at the wing position. Look for Marcus Smart and Aron Baynes to be in the starting lineup if Brown is out along with Morris.

Also, Stevens will likely use Terry Rozier and first-year forward Semi Ojeleye more in addition to increased spot-duty for another rookie, Abdel Nader. On Friday, Rozier had a career-high 23 points while Ojeleye and Nader had seven and three points, respectively.

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Stars, studs and duds: Celtics want Rozier to be 'ready to fire'

Stars, studs and duds: Celtics want Rozier to be 'ready to fire'

BOSTON – Let’s face it. The way the Boston Celtics’ second unit has shot the ball this season, somebody was due for a breakout performance.
 
On Friday night it was Terry Rozier who scored a career-high 23 points in helping Boston get back on a winning track with a 118-103 victory that wasn’t anywhere close to what the final score might indicate.
 
Boston had five players reach double figures scoring, but arguably the most significant one of the bunch was Rozier.
 
A 33.7 percent shooter from the field and just 32.6 percent on 3’s this season, Rozier was Jacuzzi-hot from the floor on Saturday, connecting on 8-of-11 shots from the field along with five made 3-pointers.
 
While Rozier isn’t known as a lethal shooter, Celtics head coach Brad Stevens’ confidence in Rozier as a shooter remained strong heading into the game regardless of what his shooting percentage might suggest.
 
“Law of averages will play themselves out with him,” Stevens said. “He’s a really good shooter; made some big ones in a lot of different games this year. We want him to be ready to fire when he catches it.”
 
And he was on Friday, providing the kind of offensive punch that Boston’s second unit desperately needs more of this season.
 
“Any way you put it, I’m going to keep shooting,” Rozier said. “I’m going to keep playing. I’m not perfect. I’m going to have tough games. I’ll have games like this.
 
Rozier added, “It feels good to get points as a unit, and like said you just want to keep building off of it, and not lose sight of our team mantra, which is playing defense.”
 
Here are the Stars, Studs and Duds from Boston’s 118-103 win over Orlando.
 
STARS
 
Kyrie Irving

Despite playing in just the first three quarters, Irving still did plenty of damage in leading all scorers with 30 points on an efficient 9-for-15 shooting while also tallying four rebounds, three assists and a steal.
 
 

STUDS
 
Terry Rozier

The bench has come under heat lately for a lack of production. Rozier showed the second unit does have some life offensively as he lit the Magic up for a career-high 23 points which included five made 3-pointers which was also a career-high.
 
Al Horford

His ability to play the role of a facilitator was on display early on Friday night as he tallied seven of his game-high 10 assists in the first quarter.
 
Nikola Vucevic

There wasn’t a lot to cheer about for the Magic, but that shouldn’t take away from what was a solid game for Vucevic who had a double-double of 12 points and 11 rebounds.
 
 
DUDS
 
Orlando’s desire to “play tough”

Before the game, the Magic talked about the need to be a more physical, tougher team. And after getting pummeled by the Celtics for most of Friday night’s game, the need to be tougher was once again the narrative of choice.

“Show more toughness; show more fight,” said Magic head coach Frank Vogel after the loss.

“We weren’t physical enough,” said Orlando’s Terrence Ross.

“Just not being physical enough, not being tough enough defensively, way too comfortable” was how Magic forward Aaron Gordon described his team’s play. It’s great that they recognize what’s clearly an area of weakness. Up next? Do something other than talk about it.

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