Celtics

Celtics in "next man up" mode once again vs Hawks

Celtics in "next man up" mode once again vs Hawks

BOSTON – The Boston Celtics remain in “next man up” mode with several players out for tonight’s game against the Atlanta Hawks.

Boston’s five-time all-star Kyrie Irving will miss his second straight game due to a right quadriceps injury he suffered on Monday at Denver.

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“Kyrie feels a little bit better,” said Celtics head coach Brad Stevens. “But will be day-to-day, and is not ready to play.”

And Marcus Morris, who had a game-high 20 points on 6-for-9 shooting in Boston’s 103-73 win over New York on Wednesday, is also out tonight.  Morris took a hard spill in the third quarter and landed on the left side of his hip/butt region, but eventually rose to his feet with the assistance of the medical staff.

Boston will also be without Shane Larkin (sore knee) and Marcus Smart (right hand laceration), as well as Gordon Hayward (ankle).

“Marcus Morris, I joke that his butt’s better, but we’re not playing him because he wore that jersey,” said Stevens, referring to Morris, a Philadelphia native, showing up to the TD Garden on Wednesday wearing a Philadelphia Eagles jersey.

On a more serious note, “he (Morris) feels better than we thought he would,” Stevens said, and then added, “He’s going to still be out for the foreseeable future, a couple days and go from there.”

Stevens was asked who among his injured players was most likely to play on Sunday against Portland, and responded by indicating Irving and Morris but cautioned it’s too soon to know that for sure. 

 Marcus Smart suffered his hand injury prior to the Celtics road game against the Los Angeles Clippers on Jan. 24 when punched a picture frame at the team hotel out of frustration.

The initial timetable was about two weeks from when the incident happened, but Stevens said a new timeline has him somewhere close to the all-star break. 

There haven’t been any setbacks, said Stevens who added the new timeline had to do with the rate at which the skin on his hand is healing. 

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Not only will the Celtics be short-handed in terms of healthy bodies available tonight, but they will also be lacking when it comes to experience. 

Boston may have as many as 11 players in uniform tonight (that includes two-way players Kadeem Allen and Jabari Bird), with seven being rookies. 

“It’s a blast for them,” Stevens said of his rookies. “It’s great for them to get opportunities. We talked about it at the start of the year, we’re not going to lean on that as the excuse. We’re going to hopefully have everybody get ready for their chance. And when their chance comes, hopefully they maximize it.

Stevens added, “We need all of those guys. They’re not on the team for what they might look like five years from now. We need them to help us win now. That’s the responsibility everybody has.”

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Marcus Smart makes the Celtics great again

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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.”

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Kyrie is not happy with Zaza Pachulia

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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.