Celtics

With injuries to both ankles, Smart ruled out vs. Sixers

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With injuries to both ankles, Smart ruled out vs. Sixers

PHILADELPHIA – Already down one All-Star, the Boston Celtics head into tonight’s game against Philadelphia without one of their biggest difference-makers in Marcus Smart.

The 6-foot-4 guard has been ruled out for tonight’s game against the Sixers due to a sprained left ankle injury he suffered in Boston’s 108-100 loss to Milwaukee on Wednesday.

He will be replaced in the starting lineup by Aron Baynes. 

Celtics said the decision to go with Baynes was in part due to ensuring that Terry Rozier continues coming off the bench where he has been one of Boston’s most productive backups.

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Smart, speaking to reporters this morning, said he actually rolled both of his ankles in the loss to the Bucks.
 
But as he sat on the sidelines during Boston’s morning shoot-around, only the left ankle was heavily taped.
 
The absence of Smart only compounds a Celtics team that’s still coming to grips with the loss of Gordon Hayward who underwent successful bony and ligamentous stabilization surgery for the fracture dislocation of his left ankle in the first quarter of Boston’s 102-99 season-opening loss at Cleveland.
 
Smart is well aware of the Celtics are still in search of their first win of the season, a fact that in many ways brings about a heightened sense of urgency to get a victory.
 
However, the Celtics’ handling of Smart is similar to how they dealt with Marcus Morris who had some left knee soreness that will keep him out for at least another week.
 
“It’s a long season, so we just want to make sure I’m 100 percent before we risk anything. It’s the third game into the season,” Smart said.

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A. Sherrod Blakely’s Starting 5: Unmasking the NBA’s best

A. Sherrod Blakely’s Starting 5: Unmasking the NBA’s best

BOSTON –  The NBA has seen its share of early-season injuries, some resulting in guys out for the season (Gordon Hayward) while others missing just a couple games (Al Horford out two games with a concussion).

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And then there’s Kyrie Irving, who suffered a facial fracture that kept him for one game. He was supposed to wear a plastic protective mask for a couple weeks. Instead, it lasted one game and part of another before Irving decided to ditch it.
 
Kyrie’s mask got me to thinking … who are the best masked men in the NBA?
 
Today's Starting Five will include the top 5 masked men in the annals of NBA history, in addition to the top 5 teams, MVP candidates, rookies and defenders:
 
TOP 5 MASKED MEN


1. Rip Hamilton, Detroit – Worn initially for protection, his mask became an iconic look for the three-time All-star.

2. Kobe Bryant, Los Angeles Lakers – Mask worn in 2012, the last year Bryant appeared in the playoffs.

3. Russell Westbrook, Oklahoma City – He looked and played like a superhero in his first game with a mask in 2015, tallying 49 points, 16 rebounds and 10 assists in a win over Philly.

4. LeBron James – Ever the fashion-forward one, James wore a black, carbon-fiber mask to protect his broken nose in 2014.

5. Kyrie Irving - He played with a mask for 19 games in 2013, averaging 24.5 points and 47.5 percent from the field and 39.8 percent from 3-point range.
 
TOP 5 MVP CANDIDATES


1. Giannis Antetokounmpo, Milwaukee – The addition of Eric Bledsoe has helped rack up some wins, strengthen Antetokounmpo’s chances atop the MVP leaderboard.

2. Kevin Durant, Golden State – Shooting better than 50 percent from the field, Durant has stepped his passing game (career-high 5.0 assists now) up this season while continuing to pile up the wins.

3. James Harden, Houston – Not having Chris Paul around most of this season and still winning, is a reminder of how Harden has played at a consistently high level against all comers.

4. LeBron James, Cleveland – Three straight wins and the Cavs are well on their way to getting back into the thick of things, with LeBron leading the way.

5. Al Horford, Boston – In his last three games, he’s shooting 76.6 percent and has been a central figure in Boston’s rise to the top of the NBA standings.
 
TOP 5 ROOKIES


1. Ben Simmons, Philadelphia - He has eight double-doubles and a pair of triple-doubles to his credit this season. He’s the rookie everyone is chasing now.

2. Dennis Smith Jr., Dallas - You have to watch this guy play. Would be getting a lot more pub if the Mavs had a better record.

3. Jayson Tatum, Boston - Had a rough start against the Warriors, but bounced back and made key plays down the stretch helping Boston get the win.

4. Kyle Kuzma, Los Angeles Lakers - The late first-round pick has been an absolute Godsend to the Lakers, able to contribute in a multiple of ways.

5. Lonzo Ball, Los Angeles Lakers - He has been up and down like most rookies. But his court vision alone will keep him on the floor for many years to come.
 
TOP 5 DEFENDERS


1. Al Horford, Boston - He’s the best defender on the NBA’s best team defensively. It makes sense for Horford to be the pace-setter in this category.

2. Rudy Gobert, Utah - A towering presence, this 7-foot-2 big man will once again be a top-3 finisher when it comes to the league’s highest defensive honor.

3. Draymond Green, Golden State - The reigning Defensive Player of the Year, Green is the rare player who can defend all five positions at a fairly high level.
 
4.  Andre Roberson, Oklahoma City - His ability to defend guards as well as switch out defensively is a huge plus to the Thunder.
 
5. Aron Baynes, Boston - You will be hard-pressed to find anyone who utilizes the NBA’s rule of verticality  better than Baynes.
 
TOP 5 TEAMS


1. Boston – Winning 14 games, that’s one thing. But to beat Golden State along the journey? That’s special.

2. Golden State – Loss to Boston be damned, the Warriors are still the team everyone emulates … even now.

3. Houston – Can score with the best of them, but until they defend at a high level their success will remain limited primarily to the regular season.

4. Minnesota – It’s still early, but it’s hard to imagine the Timberwolves going anywhere but up the Western Conference standings.

5. Detroit – Outside of Boston, there may not be a bigger surprise in the NBA thus far than Detroit.

Sam Amick talks Kyrie Irving, Celtics streak and his interview with Isaiah Thomas

Sam Amick talks Kyrie Irving, Celtics streak and his interview with Isaiah Thomas

The Celtics beat the Warriors Thursday night at TD Garden for their 14th straight win, and A. Sherrod Blakely and Kyle Draper talk about the remarkable victory. USA Today NBA Insider Sam Amick joins to talk about the streak, and Brian Scalabrine is joined by Brad Stevens.

The Rundown:

(2:55) Sherrod and Kyle break down Thursday's comeback over Golden State, and whether the victory signals that the C's are the clear-cut favorites in the East. (7:20) Jaylen Brown had a big game in the face of adversity, and always seems to step up in big moments. (9:25) Scal declared the Celtics defense as "for real" on Postgame Live, Sherrod and Drapes discuss this further.

During the Sam Amick interview (10:45), we discuss how everyone, including Kyrie Irving, is buying into the Celtics defensive mindset and (11:50) the national perspective on his trade demand this summer and start to the season. (15:40) Amick weighs-in on whether Steve Kerr was accurate in labeling Boston as the clear team of the future in the East. (18:45) Amick had a long interview this week on USA Today Sports with former guard Isaiah Thomas, who is dreaming about facing his former team in the conference finals. Finally, Amick talks about the best case scenario for the Celtics come April if Gordon Hayward is able to return.

Brian Scalabrine catches up with Brad Stevens (26:20) to talk about not having the new Big 3 for more than 5 minutes together this year, and how continuity is key.