Celtics

Doc: 'I have no idea' if Rondo will play against Nets

926349.jpg

Doc: 'I have no idea' if Rondo will play against Nets

BOSTON Rajon Rondo is about as tough a player as you'll come across in the NBA.
So the idea of him suffering a right ankle injury and not being able to return can not be discounted.
Boston managed to survive a Rajon Rondo-less fourth quarter on Wednesday in squeaking out a 98-93 win over Utah.
But it remains to be seen if the C's can last an entire game without their floor leader.
Boston may have to find out the hard way Thursday night when they play the Brooklyn Nets.
Celtics coach Doc Rivers said it was "iffy" that Rondo could have returned to the floor on Wednesday night against the Jazz.
When asked if Rondo would play against the Nets, Rivers responded, "I have no idea. With sprained ankles, tomorrow you'll know more."
If he's unable to play, the Celtics would likely re-insert Courtney Lee into the starting lineup and have Jason Terry slide over to running the point.
There's not a single player in the Celtics locker room who doesn't know that they are a better team -- a much better team -- with Rondo rather than without him.
Still, there is clearly an upside of sorts for the Celtics during stretches in which Rondo is off the floor.
"You don't wish any hurt upon any of your teammates, but it's the nature of the business, it happens," said Boston's Paul Pierce. "We went without him a few games last year, so we just have to make the adjustments."
Rondo missed 13 games last season with the Celtics tallying a decent 8-5 record in his absence.
While there are a number of adjustments that have to be made if Rondo is unable to play, there's a confidence about this team that keeps them relatively confident that the void left by his absence will be filled by someone.
On Wednesday, that player was Leandro Barbosa, who led the Celtics second unit with 16 points but maybe even more important, didn't allow the Celtics to miss a beat even with their best player out of the game.
"It shows how deep we are," said Celtics big man Chris Wilcox. "We've got guys who can step up."
And the timing of that lesson could not be any better as the Celtics travel to Brooklyn to face a Nets team that's led by point guard Deron Williams.
Still, the idea of having to play games at some point without Rondo was something that Rivers anticipated coming about at some point this season.
"He's not going to play all 82, I doubt," Rivers said. "It'd be nice. You know, how I think, guys, the next guy, just somebody has to step up and we have to figure it out. Tonight was a great example that we did that."

WATCH: Celtics vs. Mavericks

stream-celtics-mavs.jpg

WATCH: Celtics vs. Mavericks

Tune into NBC Sports Boston to watch the Celtics play the Mavericks in Dallas. You can also click here to watch the Celtics livestream presented by Nissan on the NBC Sports App. Coverage begins at 7:30 p.m. with Celtics Pregame Live Presented by ACE Ticket.

- Game preview: C's need to play Smart in Dallas

- Channel Finder: Make sure you know where to watch

[SHOP: Gear up, Celtics fans!]

NBC SPORTS BOSTON SCHEDULE

Celtics-Mavericks preview: C's need to play Smart vs. Dallas

Celtics-Mavericks preview: C's need to play Smart vs. Dallas

Get it done. No excuses.
 
That has been how the Boston Celtics have played most of this season.
 
And if there’s one Celtics player who embodies that on this team, it’s Marcus Smart.
 
The fourth-year guard has struggled all season with his shot-making, but when the game is on the line in the fourth quarter you can count on Smart to be on the floor.

THE WINNING STREAK

He has been among the many reasons Boston has won 15 in a row, which is the fifth-longest winning streak in franchise history.
 
And Smart will be among the Celtics looking to keep it going tonight against the Dallas Mavericks.
 
Most likely, Smart will make an impact with his defense, which is among the best in the NBA.

How good?
 
Smart has a defensive rating of 93.4 (points allowed per 100 possessions) which is tops among all guards in the NBA, and ranks third among all players who have played in at least 10 games this season.
 
But in the 110-99 win over the Hawks, Smart knocked down a couple of 3-pointers which was a big deal considering how mightily he has struggled shooting the ball this season.
 
Smart is shooting 27.3 percent from the field as well as from 3-point range – both career lows.
 
However, he’s also averaging career highs in assists (4.5) and rebounds (5.1) this season.
 
And while he certainly doesn’t appear to be affected by the shooting struggles, he acknowledges that it is something that he can’t help but think about from time to time.
 
“It does affect you, especially if you’ve been working (on shooting) all summer,” Smart said. “At the same time, I don’t take as many shots. But like I said, we got other guys who are playing well. My job is to get them the ball and do whatever I can, go back down the floor, play defense and get the ball again.”

In Boston’s win over Atlanta, Smart spent a good amount of time defending Marco Belinelli who had four points on 2-for-10 shooting compared to 19 points on 6-for-10 shooting when these two teams met earlier this month.
 
Coach Brad Stevens pointed to the job Smart did on Belinelli, in addition to the clutch offensive rebound he was able to snag and quickly put back up and in that gave Boston a 103-95 game with about two minutes to play.
 
“He was really good,” Stevens said.
 
The same could be said for most of the Celtics of late.
 
Kyrie Irving is coming off his most efficient game of the season, tallying 30 points on 10-for-12 shooting from the field. Jayson Tatum had a rough start, but he came on strong as well with 14 points – all coming in the second half.
 
But the backbone of Boston’s success lies in what they’re able to get done defensively.
 
So far, Boston’s defense has been as strong as we’ve seen this early, in quite some time.
 
Boston, which has a league-best defensive rating of 95.9, has length, savvy and an overall total buy-in by the players on what Brad Stevens is looking for, from them.
 
Meanwhile, the Mavericks (3-14) are coming off their most impressive victory this season, a 111-79 win over Milwaukee.  Dennis Smith Jr. has been among the more talented rookies this season. He’s averaging 14.5 points, 4.2 rebounds and 4.5 assists per game. Dallas is indeed in a transition period where longtime superstar Dirk Nowitzki (10.3 points, 5.5 rebounds per game) is gradually passing the torch to his younger teammates like Harrison Barnes (18.7 points, 7.1 rebounds) and Smith Jr.
 
Much like the Hawks game, the Celtics must approach this game with a focus on the opponent and not their record.
 
Because the Celtics are no longer just a good team on the schedule. They are a measuring stick for most to see how they stack up against the league’s best.
 
And the Celtics understand how their success has changed how teams see them.
 
“Now that we have a reputation, I think everyone is coming for us,” said Boston’s Jaylen Brown. “Now we have to come play even harder, and I think we can do that. I think we are more than capable.”

NBC SPORTS BOSTON SCHEDULE