Celtics' Al Horford, in concussion protocol, to miss tonight's game vs. Lakers

Celtics' Al Horford, in concussion protocol, to miss tonight's game vs. Lakers

BOSTON – Al Horford, an instrumental part of the Celtics' current NBA-best, nine-game winning streak, will not play tonight against the Los Angeles Lakers after being entered into the league’s concussion protocol.
Team officials said the first concussion-like symptoms experienced by Horford occurred this morning. He suffered a blow to the head on a foul in Boston’s 110-107 win at Atlanta Monday night, but team officials said he did not show any concussion-like symptoms after the play or for the remainder of the game.
This will be the second time Horford has entered the concussion protocol since he arrived in Boston last year. An early-season concussion resulted in Horford missing nine games last season. It is unclear how long Horford will be out this time.
Horford’s injury comes at a time when the Celtics are playing their best basketball of the season. They come into tonight’s game against the Lakers as the first in league history to have won nine in a row games following a pair of losses to open the season.
In his 11th season, Horford’s strength and versatility in limiting opponents of all shapes, sizes and speeds has made him an early contender for the league’s Defensive Player of the Year award.
Now that he will be out indefinitely, the Celtics will once again find themselves trying to regroup in the face of an injury.
The Celtics' Gordon Hayward suffered a left ankle injury just five minutes into the season-opener for Boston. The Celtics regrouped soon afterward to play some inspiring basketball.

Horford is averaging 14.6 points, 9.2 rebounds and 4.7 assists per game while shooting 47.4 percent from 3-point range. Defensively, he has been an absolute anchor for the Celtics’ top-ranked defense with his ability to switch out on seemingly any player, and still get back in time to be a factor in his individual matchup.

His defensive rating of 93.2 is tops among all NBA players averaging at least 30 minutes played per game.

Marcus Smart makes the Celtics great again

Marcus Smart makes the Celtics great again

Two games in and the return of Marcus Smart has had the effect many predicted it would for Boston.

There may be other Celtics who score more points, tally more assists and snare a few more rebounds.

But the impact of Smart’s play on what truly matters – winning – is undeniable.

His play was one of the keys to Boston’s 121-112 win at New York on Saturday night.

Smart came off the bench to score 11 points to go with five assists and three steals.

In his two games back, Smart is averaging 11.5 points, 5.5 assists, 2.5 rebounds and 1.5 steals while shooting 64.3 percent from the field.

Yes, it’s a small sample size for sure.

More than anything, it serves as a reminder of how one of Smart’s greatest assets as a player is his ability to contribute in a multitude of ways.

“He just adds a lot of versatility to our offense and our defense,” Boston’s Kyrie Irving told NBC Sports Boston following Saturday’s game. “He has a high awareness on both ends. He’s able to create opportunities for all of us at both ends of the floor and we appreciate that.”

Certainly Smart is credited for being a good defender, and his play-making skills have improved dramatically in the last year or so.

But arguably Smart’s biggest contribution is that his play allows others around him, to focus on whatever it is that they do well, knowing that Smart has the ability to do both his job as well as provide help when needed.

Boston’s defense struggled mightily before the break with teams scoring seemingly whenever they wanted to.

But in the last two games, Boston has looked more like the defensive unit that has been among the NBA’s best most of this season.

In the last two games, Boston’s defensive rating has been 104.5 which ranks 11th in the NBA during that span.

Several factors have played a role in Boston’s improved defense the last two games; among them being the return of Smart who missed 11 games after punching a picture frame last month that left him with 20 stitches.

“It’s the appreciation of Marcus Smart right there,” Irving said. “Implement him and him just putting his stamp and identity on our team as well. It just makes a lot of other guy’s job, easier. Because he covers up a lot of our mistakes as well as playing with unbelievable awareness at both ends of the floor. He understands spacing, he understands how the little things matter.”


Kyrie is not happy with Zaza Pachulia

File Photo

Kyrie is not happy with Zaza Pachulia

The Celtics defeated the Knicks in a game that had a little bit of everything Saturday night.

Kyrie Irving led the Celtics to victory and dominated in all of the important situations.

But he came out of the night a little pissed off.

During the Warriors-Thunders game tonight, Russell Westbrook drove to the paint and fell to the ground.

After Westbrook fell to the ground Zaza Pachulia appears to intentionally fall on to the back of his legs.

The play irritated Irving enough for him to air out his thoughts publicly on Instagram.