Celtics

Should spate of injuries change our expectations for Celtics?

Should spate of injuries change our expectations for Celtics?

BOSTON -- With so many bodies either not coming back this season or out indefinitely, Celtics coach Brad Stevens is going to have to tweak a few things with his roster. 
 
Should fans do the same in terms of their expectations?

TONIGHT'S INJURIES

 
When the season began, the Celts were on everyone's short list to be the team in the East to finally dethrone the Cleveland Cavaliers. Even after Gordon Hayward went down just five minutes into the season, the C's trajectory was still upward bound. 
 
They've had their share of setbacks since then, though they've managed to play through most of them and remain successful. But they reached their nadir this week. 
 
In addition to the aforementioned Hayward (dislocated left ankle), who is not expected back this season, Boston has also lost key reserve Daniel Theis (torn meniscus, left knee) for the season. In addition . . .

-- Marcus Smart has a torn tendon in his right hand and will get a second opinionto see what are his options, if any, on how to play with the injury.
 
--  Jaylen Brown has a concussion and has been ruled out all this week.

-- Al Horford is feverish to the point where he missed the Celtics' last game and won't play tonight against Washington.
 
-- Oh yeah, one more thing. Kyrie Irving has a sore left knee that's expected to keep him out multiple games -- including tonight's -- between now and the start of the playoffs next month. 
 
And that's not all. Jayson Tatum has some low back tightness, though he's expected to play tonight. And even Boston's end-of-the-bench guys like Shane Larkin (sore left knee) aren't immune to what has been a season-long stretch of injuries.
 
"I've never been in a season like this," Stevens said. "And it started right out of the gate this way with Gordon. The rest of the year, dealt with a lot of what would be small, week-to-week, or a couple of weeks type of things."
 
But as the calendar shrinks between the regular season and the playoffs, so does the ability to recover health-wise and still have time to have some semblance of good playing rhythm headed into the postseason. 
 
Marcus Morris spent the first couple of months of the season playing limited minutes or not at all due to left knee soreness. Now healthy, he can understand all too well how frustrated his teammates are at not being ready to roll health-wise at this point in the season. 
 
"It's definitely unfortunate," Morris said. "It's the NBA, though. There's a lot of games, a lot of wear and tear on guy's bodies. That's why you got 15 players."
 
And rest assured, the Celtics have every intention of using all of them. 
 
Guerschon Yabusele has spent most of this season with Boston's Gatorade League affiliate, the Maine Red Claws. After the Celtics' practice on Monday, Stevens said Yabusele was on a flight back to Boston to be with the team. More than likely, the 6-foot-8 forward will be on the team's active roster tonight.

MORE CELTICS

 
The Wizards come into the game missing a key player as well, with All-Star John Wall still on the mend after arthroscopic surgery on his left knee in January.
 
Despite all the injuries, Boston (46-21) will likely finish with the No. 2 seed in the East, which normally brings about an expectation of at least getting to the Conference finals. 
 
While that certainly remains a goal, with so many late-season injuries should that remain the expectation for this group?
 
The Celtics have consistently said their focus this season has been getting better from one game to the next, and that improvement wasn't necessarily going to always show up in the win column. 
 
That approach will serve them well right now, because every indication is that this most recent rash of setbacks won't be as easy to move past as those experienced earlier this year. 
 
"A lot of teams are going through [injuries]," said Terry Rozier. "So, we have to collectively as a group do what we can to pick up for those guys. It's not going to be easy, but part of the NBA -- this is what it's all about -- opportunity."

NBC SPORTS BOSTON SCHEDULE

Celtics offense struggles mightily in Game 3 loss to Bucks

Celtics offense struggles mightily in Game 3 loss to Bucks

MILWAUKEE – The Boston Celtics have had their share of offensive clunkers this season.

But few were as painfully woeful as what transpired in the first half of Boston’s 116-92 Game 3 loss to the Milwaukee Bucks.

Boston now has a 2-1 lead in the best-of-seven series with Game 4 in Milwaukee on Sunday and Game 5 back in Boston on Tuesday.

“I didn’t think we were great, but offensively we were horrendous in the first (half),” said Celtics head coach Brad Stevens. “We were on our heels the whole time.”

Boston found itself in a 16-6 ditch to start the game, and it didn’t get much better from there.

Milwaukee shot 55 percent from the field in the first quarter, but the killer for Boston in the first was their 2-for-19 (10.5 percent) shooting from the field which put the Celtics in a 27-12 hole after one quarter of play.

Offensive struggles are nothing new for Boston which shot 45 percent from the field in the regular season which ranked 23rd in the NBA. 

They haven’t been much better in the playoffs, connecting on just 45.1 percent of their shots which ranks ninth among the 16 teams in the playoffs.

Things got better offensively for Boston in the second quarter and they wound up shooting a respectable 50 percent (10-for-20) from the field. 

But it still wasn’t enough to keep pace with the Bucks who connected on 63.2 percent (12-for-19) of their shots in the second quarter which pushed their halftime lead to 58-35.

“We got in a hole. This is new for our group,” said Al Horford. “It’s the first time we’ve gone on the road in the playoffs in a tough environment. We did some good things there, but at that point, they had it going. Give them credit. They had it going, and we really didn’t have an answer for them tonight.”

And that more than anything else, should be a major concern for the Celtics heading into Game 4 on Sunday.

If they’re not getting more stops defensively, their offense has to be more efficient, more impactful than what we saw in Game 3 if the Celtics are to continue to remain in control. 

“They did what they had to do out there,” Boston’s Marcus Morris told NBC Sports Boston. “They were the more desperate team. They did what they had to do. We’ll see them on Sunday.”

NBC SPORTS BOSTON SCHEDULE

Middleton has another big game as Celtics fall to Bucks in Game 3

Middleton has another big game as Celtics fall to Bucks in Game 3

MILWAUKEE – Here are the Stars, Studs, and Duds from Boston’s 116-92 Game 3 loss to the Milwaukee Bucks.

MORE - Stevens: 'We were on our heels the whole time'

STARS

Khris Middleton: It was yet another impactful, highly efficient game for Middleton. He led all scorers with 23 points on 10-for-17 shooting along with eight rebounds and seven assists.

Giannis Antetokounmpo: He was still a central figure in Milwaukee’s scoring, but the Bucks weren’t nearly as dependent on him to carry the scoring load in Game 3. That said, Antetokounmpo still finished with a strong 19-point, five-rebound, five-assist performance. 

Al Horford: Horford had 16 points on 7-for-13 shooting, but didn’t get much help from his teammates who were a combined 25-for-67 (37.3 percent).

 

STUDS

Thon Maker: A seldom-used reserve in Games 1 and 2, Maker was a true difference-maker for the Bucks. In addition to scoring 14 points, he also grabbed five rebounds and tallied five blocked shots.

Eric Bledsoe: Give Bledsoe credit. He said he would be better back in Milwaukee, and he backed it up with a strong performance. He had 17 points on 8-for-13 shooting.

Bucks bench: The play of Thon Maker stood out, but he wasn’t the only Milwaukee backup to step up with a strong Game 3 performance. Matthew Dellavedova (5 points) and Jabari Parker (17 points on 7-for-12 shooting) were part of a Bucks bench that outscored Boston’s second unit, 50-34.

Aron Baynes: Baynes played 30 minutes and made the most of his opportunities to score, tallying eight points on 3-for-3 shooting (he made both of his 3-point attempts) along with grabbing eight rebounds.

 

DUDS

Terry Rozier: We haven’t seen Terry Rozier struggle like we did in Game 3 in quite some time. Rozier, who came in averaging 23 points after the first two games, had just nine points on 2-for-7 shooting in Game 3. More significant was Rozier’s five turnovers – he had zero in Games 1 and 2.

Marcus Morris: Milwaukee did a much better limiting Marcus Morris who was a major matchup in Games 1 and 2. In Friday’s Game 3 matchup, Morris had just seven points on 2-for-8 shooting.

NBC SPORTS BOSTON SCHEDULE