Celtics

Can injuries slow Celtics' playoff momentum?

Can injuries slow Celtics' playoff momentum?

BOSTON – The late-season injuries that have ravaged the Celtics roster of late have left them with a lot more questions than answers.

Many of those questions center around whether they will go into the playoffs with the kind of momentum to springboard them to postseason success.

Celtics coach Brad Stevens’ response to such inquiries raises another question.

Does it even matter?

He pointed out how the Celtics closed the 2014-15 season with six consecutive wins that propelled them to the postseason for the first time under Stevens.

And then the playoffs arrived with Boston being swept 4-0 in the first round by the Cleveland Cavaliers.

“Everybody gets a new lease on life when that regular season ends, and the playoffs start,” Stevens said. “The key is to be in it, to be as healthy as you can be obviously, but then to maximize the guys on your roster to play as well as you can.”

And Stevens’ words – “to play as well as you can” – is what true momentum is about.

As we’ve seen throughout this season, Boston has had games in which it played well and lost, while winning others despite a less-than-stellar performance.

That’s why Celtics players spend more time focusing on how they play and not so much on the results.

Which is why the 125-124 double-overtime loss to Washington on Wednesday night was a game in which Boston will likely benefit from down the road.

Playing as short-handed as we’ve seen them all season, the Celtics know they should have won the game.

In the fourth quarter, they were a last-second defensive stop away from a victory.

And in the first OT, Jayson Tatum missed a free throw with 3 seconds to play that would have given Boston a one-point lead.

The game finally ended when Tatum’s contested 3-pointer hit the back of the rim and rolled out as time expired.

“We’re going to fight, regardless,” said Marcus Morris. “We are going to fight.”

Rozier echoed Morris’ sentiments.

“We got a lot of guys that can play,” Rozier said. “This is the NBA, there is a lot of opportunity for a lot of guys and just got to make the best of it and that is what we are looking to do.”

Which leads to the kind of momentum sparked by improved play that Boston is searching for to close out the regular season and hang on to going into the playoffs.

NBC SPORTS BOSTON SCHEDULE

Watch: Gordon Hayward dunks over defender

Watch: Gordon Hayward dunks over defender

Gordon Hayward's return from his ankle injury seems to be as close to complete as it could before training camp. 

In a video posted by his trainer Jason Smeathers, Hayward can be found blowing by a defender off the dribble and dunking on him with two hands. 

Soon, the defender will hopefully be someone like Ben Simmons or Giannis Antetokounmpo.

Hayward's recovery has been well documented, giving Celtics fans a constant progress report of where their star forward was in his path back to the TD Garden floor. 

There have been questions surrounding Hayward's return to a team that made it to Game 7 of the conference finals without him, but there was never gaps in information regarding his recovery.

NBC SPORTS BOSTON SCHEDULE

Mannix: LeBron, Lakers will fall short of postseason

Mannix: LeBron, Lakers will fall short of postseason

After reaching the NBA Finals in eight straight seasons while shouldering an unprecedented workload, the idea of LeBron James missing the playoffs entirely sounds blasphemous.

Chris Mannix, however, thinks, with their current roster, the new-look Lakers will fall short of the postseason for the sixth straight season.

“It’s the island of misfit toys out there...and LeBron James,” said Mannix.

The Lakers finished the 2017-18 NBA season 35-47, 12 games behind the eighth-seeded Minnesota Timberwolves.

“You have to assume it’s 48 wins to get into the playoffs in the Western Conference,” Mannix added. “I don’t see that team making up that difference.”

James wasn’t the only addition Los Angeles made, however, bringing in veterans Lance Stephenson, Rajon Rondo, Javale McGee, and resigning Kentavious Caldwell-Pope.

If the Lakers do miss the playoffs, it will be James’ first missed postseason since the 2004-05 season, when his Cleveland Cavaliers fell short despite the 20-year-old James averaging over 27 points per game.