BOSTON – Last season, the biggest win of the Boston Celtics’ season came at Golden State and they did it without one of their most indispensable players, Jae Crowder.
Can they do it again at Cleveland?
We’ll find out tonight when the Celtics take on the defending NBA champions without their most versatile players in Crowder who suffered a sprained ankle injury during the first half of Boston’s 107-100 win over Chicago that team officials say will keep him out for at least a week.
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“I don’t think we’re into it enough to make an assessment on that timeline,” said Celtics head coach Brad Stevens. “It doesn’t sound like he’ll be back any time soon.”
That means the earliest they anticipate Crowder returning will be Nov. 9 at Washington.
Following Wednesday’s victory, Celtics guard Isaiah Thomas talked about how difficult winning tonight will be without Crowder who would have been Boston’s primary defender against LeBron James.
“He’s (Crowder) a key part of this team,” Thomas said. “I knew when he went back to the locker room (at halftime) he probably wasn’t coming back. A tough guy, injuries don’t really hold him back. The next man has to step up; we have to step up as a group altogether, hold the fort until he gets back.”
Crowder’s injury only adds to the growing list of banged up Celtics in this first full week of the NBA season.
The Celtics will be without Al Horford tonight after being put in the NBA’s concussion protocol program following a blow to the head during practice on Monday.
And while Avery Bradley (right shoulder) was able to play on Wednesday after sitting out practice on Tuesday, there’s no telling if the soreness will flare up to where he can’t play or is limited against the Cavs.
That doesn’t even factor in not having Kelly Olynyk who is back to practicing with the team but isn’t expected to return to action for at least another couple weeks.
Boston would love to have its full complement of players available. But these are the situations that speak to why the Celtics have made having as much quality depth, a priority.
Horford is out, but Amir Johnson has a season-high 23 points and a career-high four made 3-pointers. And Horford’s replacement in the starting lineup, Tyler Zeller, had 11 points, four rebounds and a steal.
“We got a lot of good players who can step up at any given time,” Thomas said. “I think that’s our strength, our depth. We’re going to keep going. We got a big one (tonight). Hopefully we can sneak one out of Cleveland.”