Celtics-Hornets preview: Boston will keep looking to next man up

Celtics-Hornets preview: Boston will keep looking to next man up

BOSTON -- When Gordon Hayward (ankle) went down, it took the Boston Celtics (10-2) about 24 hours to get from under the storm clouds of disappointment, and see his absence for what it was -- an opportunity for others to step up. 

That next-man-up mantra has become the identity of this team, a team that comes into tonight’s game against the Charlotte Hornets having won 10 straight which has them sitting atop the NBA standings. 

Their advancement in the face of adversity has been the talk of the NBA this season, and could be potentially be put to the test once again tonight against the Hornets. 

Jayson Tatum suffered a right ankle injury in the first half of Boston’s 107-96 win over the Los Angeles Lakers on Wednesday. X-Rays that night came back negative. Ditto for the MRI test Tatum had taken on Thursday. 


Still, his status for tonight’s game is questionable. 

But one thing that’s not up for debate is the resiliency that this Celtics team has shown all season. 

So the idea that they might be short a starter, doesn’t faze them . .. at all. 

“Everybody has been stepping up,” Terry Rozier III told NBC Sports Boston. “I feel like everybody has been ready and everybody has been holding each other accountable to be ready. From the coaches on down, everybody just buying in.”

They have played all but the first five minutes of the season without Hayward.

Marcus Morris (left ankle) missed the first eight games, and still hasn’t been given the green light to play in back-to-back games even with minutes restrictions still in place.

Al Horford is in the NBA’s concussion protocol program following a blow to the head in Boston’s 110-107 win at Atlanta earlier this week. He has already been ruled out for tonight’s game, with his return still up in the air.

“I don’t think this is as bad as the concussion he had last year,” Danny Ainge, Boston’s president of basketball operations, said on 98.5 the Sports Hub’s Toucher & Rich show, on Thursday. “But listen, with a concussion you have to be really cautious. The symptoms got a little worse over the course of a couple days.”

Charlotte (5-6) has had an up-and-down start to the season in part because the Hornets have had their own injury-related issues and off-the-floor personal matters to deal with. 

However, things are starting to turn up for the Hornets who are expected to welcome Michael Kidd-Gilchrist back to the lineup tonight. He had missed the Hornets’ last three games reportedly with an “excused personal absence.”

Although he’s not expected to play tonight, Charlotte’s Nicolas Batum is also near a return to action after tearing a ligament in his left elbow on Oct. 4. 

In their absence, the Hornets have leaned on former UConn guard Jeremy Lamb as well as a pair of rookies in Malik Monk and Dwayne Bacon. 

While Clifford likes a lot of what the young players have done thus far, he’s looking forward to having veteran core guys around so that all of them, the young and more experienced players, can settle into the roles required for success.

“We’ve got to get to our (planned playing) groups; we’re 11 games in,” Clifford told the Charlotte Observer. “It will take some time. But when they get back, they’re going to start.”

The same is true for Boston’s veteran players, although head coach Brad Stevens has repeatedly said that there will be a certain amount of fluidity to his starting lineup based upon matchups. 

“I’ve gone into every season thinking that’s a reasonable thing to do,” Stevens said. 


NBCSB Breakfast podcast: Maybe next year will be the Celtics' year

NBC Sports Boston Illustration

NBCSB Breakfast podcast: Maybe next year will be the Celtics' year

1:31 - With the results of Kyrie Irving’s second opinion on his knee injury looming, the Celtic’s season is certainly up in the air. A. Sherrod Blakely, Chris Mannix, Kyle Draper and Gary Tanguay debate how Kyrie should be used if he returns.

6:02 - Back in October Michael Felger prematurely said the Bruins' season was over. The B’s marketing team featured Felger in an ad for playoff tickets now that the Bruins have clinched the playoffs. Felger, Trenni and Gary react to the commercial and discuss the Bruins playoff chances.

11:47 - The Patriots are making moves, agreeing to deals woth LaAdrian Waddle, Marquis Flowers and Patrick Chung on Thursday. Phil Perry, Michael Holley, Troy Brown and Tom E. Curran discuss how despite all that, the Pats should still be in search of a left tackle.

Greg Monroe looking forward to his 2nd taste of playoffs

File Photo

Greg Monroe looking forward to his 2nd taste of playoffs

BOSTON – We live in a world filled with success stories that came about by accident. 

The invention of the microwave oven.

Post-It notes.

The creation of potato chips.

The Boston Celtics’ game-winning play against Oklahoma City earlier this week qualfies; a play in which there were multiple miscues made by the Celtics prior to Marcus Morris’ game-winning shot. 


All these Celtics injuries have made Brad Stevens a mad scientist of sorts with some unusual lineups that may be on display tonight against the guard-centric Portland Trail Blazers. 

In Boston’s 100-99 win over the Thunder on Tuesday, we saw Stevens utilize a lineup with Al Horford and Greg Monroe, in four different stints.

Monroe, who had 17 points off the bench - the most he has scored as a Celtic -  enjoyed playing with Horford.

“Al’s so smart. He’s seen it all in this league,” Monroe told NBC Sports Boston. “He’s an all-star. Very cerebral player, unselfish. So it’s easy playing with him. He can space, drive, make plays. I feel like I can make plays, driving. It’s fun playing with him. I look forward to getting out there with him more.”

Horford had similar praise for playing with Monroe.

“Coach (Brad Stevens) made a great move bringing Greg back in, in the fourth, playing us together,” Horford said. “He made some great plays, passing the ball and just … timely plays. It’s one of those things, the more we play with each other the more comfortable we’ll get. I thought it was very positive.”

Monroe’s role has become significantly more important with the season-ending injury (torn meniscus, left knee) to Daniel Theis. And his ability to play well with various lineups will only improve Boston’s chances of weathering this latest storm of injuries which comes on the eve of the playoffs. 

And while there’s a certain amount of pleasure all players take in being on a playoff-bound team, Monroe understands better than most NBA veterans just how special it is to be headed towards the postseason.

In his eighth season, this will only be Monroe’s second time participating in the playoffs. 

The first time? 

That was last year, with the Milwaukee Bucks. 

“This is what everybody plays for, I hope,” Monroe said. “This is what I play for, to get into the postseason, make a run. It’s the best situation. I’ve been through a lot in my career, this year. I’m grateful. I don’t take anything for granted. I’m going to do whatever I can to help the team.”

And he has done that lately.

Monroe comes into tonight’s game having scored in double figures each of the last four games, a season high for the 6-foot-11 center. 

Having spent most of his NBA career watching instead of participating in the playoffs, Monroe is out to prove that he can in fact be a significant contributor to a team that’s postseason-bound.

“For sure. You have to have a little chip, a little fire, at least in my eyes,” Monroe said. “I’ve never doubted myself. It’s about being between those lines and being the best player I can be. That’s what I’m focused on.”