Celtics

Celtics in "next man up" mode once again vs Hawks

Celtics in "next man up" mode once again vs Hawks

BOSTON – The Boston Celtics remain in “next man up” mode with several players out for tonight’s game against the Atlanta Hawks.

Boston’s five-time all-star Kyrie Irving will miss his second straight game due to a right quadriceps injury he suffered on Monday at Denver.

MORE CELTICS

“Kyrie feels a little bit better,” said Celtics head coach Brad Stevens. “But will be day-to-day, and is not ready to play.”

And Marcus Morris, who had a game-high 20 points on 6-for-9 shooting in Boston’s 103-73 win over New York on Wednesday, is also out tonight.  Morris took a hard spill in the third quarter and landed on the left side of his hip/butt region, but eventually rose to his feet with the assistance of the medical staff.

Boston will also be without Shane Larkin (sore knee) and Marcus Smart (right hand laceration), as well as Gordon Hayward (ankle).

“Marcus Morris, I joke that his butt’s better, but we’re not playing him because he wore that jersey,” said Stevens, referring to Morris, a Philadelphia native, showing up to the TD Garden on Wednesday wearing a Philadelphia Eagles jersey.

On a more serious note, “he (Morris) feels better than we thought he would,” Stevens said, and then added, “He’s going to still be out for the foreseeable future, a couple days and go from there.”

Stevens was asked who among his injured players was most likely to play on Sunday against Portland, and responded by indicating Irving and Morris but cautioned it’s too soon to know that for sure. 

 Marcus Smart suffered his hand injury prior to the Celtics road game against the Los Angeles Clippers on Jan. 24 when punched a picture frame at the team hotel out of frustration.

The initial timetable was about two weeks from when the incident happened, but Stevens said a new timeline has him somewhere close to the all-star break. 

There haven’t been any setbacks, said Stevens who added the new timeline had to do with the rate at which the skin on his hand is healing. 

MORE ON NBCSPORTSBOSTON.COM

Not only will the Celtics be short-handed in terms of healthy bodies available tonight, but they will also be lacking when it comes to experience. 

Boston may have as many as 11 players in uniform tonight (that includes two-way players Kadeem Allen and Jabari Bird), with seven being rookies. 

“It’s a blast for them,” Stevens said of his rookies. “It’s great for them to get opportunities. We talked about it at the start of the year, we’re not going to lean on that as the excuse. We’re going to hopefully have everybody get ready for their chance. And when their chance comes, hopefully they maximize it.

Stevens added, “We need all of those guys. They’re not on the team for what they might look like five years from now. We need them to help us win now. That’s the responsibility everybody has.”

NBC SPORTS BOSTON SCHEDULE

Terry Rozier talks about competition with Kyrie Irving, role with C's

Terry Rozier talks about competition with Kyrie Irving, role with C's

The Boston Celtics have one of the NBA’s most talented rosters, so it’s no surprise that they have generated a lot of competition throughout the season. While that can be detrimental in some cases, it appears that competition is proving mutually beneficial for Terry Rozier and Kyrie Irving.

Rozier and Irving have been the primary point guards for the Celtics over the course of the past two years, and they may be the league’s best one-two punch at the position. But part of the reason that they’re so good is that they motivate each other to play better.

Rozier spoke about this and offered praise of Irving in a recent interview with Chris Mannix.

I’ve been saying it since I joined and played with [Kyrie Irving]…he’s like a big brother that I want everything that he's got. It’s never hating on him or nothing like that, but it’s just I want everything you got. So, I’m going to challenge him every day and he’s going to challenge me.

Rozier also was questioned about his transition to a new role after serving as the starter when Irving was out for the playoff run last year. He didn’t focus on his role too much but hinted that he may like to have a bigger one.

Let’s just put it like this. I want to say that I’m the best backup guard in this league, because that’s not what I am. Now with that being said, I do have to adjust some things. I have to get better at controlling some things, but like I said. At the end of the day, I’m just going out there and I’m playing hard.

For more, check out the video above or click here for the full interview with Rozier.

Click here to download the new MyTeams App by NBC Sports! Receive comprehensive coverage of your teams and stream the Celtics easily on your device.

Could blowing a 28-point lead deliver a first-round pick to Boston?

Could blowing a 28-point lead deliver a first-round pick to Boston?

Could the so-called worst loss of the Brad Stevens era actually help deliver a first-round pick to Boston in June?

The Los Angeles Clippers, who roared back from a 28-point deficit to stun the Celtics here earlier this month, are set to send their 2019 first-round pick to Boston if it lands outside the lottery. That means Los Angeles would have to make the playoffs, which seemed unlikely after the Clippers dealt Tobias Harris to Philadelphia before the trade deadline.

But as the race for the final Western Conference playoff spots begins to take shape, the Clippers find themselves with pole position next to fellow hopefuls Sacramento Kings and Los Angeles Lakers. What’s more, the Athletic reported Friday that Clippers owner Steve Ballmer prefers the team make a playoff push this season. 

On the surface, it sounds counterproductive for the Clippers considering a lottery pick could be beneficial to the team’s rebuilding process, even as they prepare to chase max-contract free agents this summer. But let the Celtics stand as a model of how even a small taste of the postseason can help a young core, especially right before the team adds top-end talent. The Isaiah Thomas-led Celtics got a couple small bites of the playoffs a few years back and, as soon as the team added Al Horford in the summer of 2016, it rocketed the team to the conference finals.

The Clippers won on the road over the Grizzlies on Friday night to improve to 33-27 on the season and now sit 2 games ahead of the Kings and 3 ahead of the Lakers.

MORE CELTICS

Entering Friday’s action, projections heavily favored the Clippers making the postseason. ESPN’s Basketball Power Index gave the team a whopping 80.6 percent chance to make the playoffs based on the team’s performance throughout the season, with the Lakers (9.2 percent) and Kings (8.6 percent) lagging well behind.

Even FiveThirtyEight's NBA projections, which factor in roster and lineup changes, important considering the Clippers’ trade, had the team at 62 percent to make the playoffs, a comfortable distance ahead of the Lakers (28 percent) and Kings (9 percent).

The Celtics would benefit from both the Clippers making the playoffs and the Kings missing out. Boston will collect Sacramento’s first-round pick, so long as it doesn’t vault to No. 1 in the lottery.

Entering Friday’s action, draft-tracking website Tankathon had Boston set to collect picks No. 14 (via Kings), 18 (via Clippers), and 23 (its own). Ranking teams by total pick value, the Celtics projected to have more 2019 draft capital than, say, the Knicks if they landed the No. 2 pick.

That’s important given the Anthony Davis pursuit that could loom this summer. The team that emerges with the No. 1 pick could dangle that selection — more commonly referred to as “the chance to draft Zion Williamson” — and put themselves in the running for Davis’ services. But the Celtics can make a very intriguing package with both picks and proven young talent.

MORE CELTICS

Even though the Celtics can’t formally deal for Davis until July 1, the parameters of a deal could be in place with the Pelicans and Boston would simply draft for them with any 2019 picks that are set to be swapped.

The Clippers' pick is lottery protected again next season before morphing into a 2022 second-round pick if not conveyed by 2020. Given the Clippers’ hopes of adding max-contract talent this summer, there’s a strong chance that pick might simply deliver next June in the event the Clippers fade this season.

But if the Clippers pick delivers, and especially if it ultimately is flipped as part of a deal to acquire a talent like Davis, then maybe just maybe the Celtics coughing up a 28-point lead won’t be as bad as it seemed in the moment.

Click here to download the new MyTeams App by NBC Sports! Receive comprehensive coverage of your teams and stream the Celtics easily on your device.