We have seen the Boston Celtics reach deep into their bench this season, but nothing like what we’ll see tonight against the Chicago Bulls.
Along with Gordon Hayward (left ankle fracture) who is out for the season and Marcus Morris (left knee rehabilitation) who was ruled out for tonight’s game prior to last night’s win at Detroit, the Celtics will be without at least one of their two remaining all-star players.
Kyrie Irving has been ruled out due to a left quad contusion. And Al Horford, who briefly went to the Celtics’ locker room after a knee-to-knee collision with Pistons forward Anthony Tolliver, is question for tonight’s game with a right knee contusion.
Horford was able to return to the Celtics’ lineup following the knee-on-knee blow, finishing with a near double-double of 18 points and nine rebounds to go with six assists.
If both Irving and Horford are unable to go, that leaves Boston void of its best scorer (Irving) and most complete player (Horford).
You have to wonder in the case of Horford, whether tonight’s opponent may factor in the decision to sit him or not.
Chicago (5-20) has the worst record in the NBA this season. And while the Celtics respect all opponents, if they are going to give guys some “strategic rest” in season, this would qualify as one of those nights considering the opponent in addition to knowing there won’t be any practice or a game tomorrow (the Celtics, like most teams, take the day off when they play back-to-back games).
We know Jaylen Brown, Jayson Tatum and most likely Aron Baynes will be in the starting lineup. Beyond that, you're probably looking at Marcus Smart or Terry Rozier filling in for Irving, while Horford’s possible replacement will likely be from the trio of Daniel Theis, Semi Ojeleye or potentially Guerschon Yabusele.
Smart (four starts, 3-1 record) and Theis (two starts, 2-0 record) are the only ones from that group to have been in the starting lineup this season.