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

No Hayward for Celtics tonight in Atlanta

No Hayward for Celtics tonight in Atlanta

Gordon Hayward is not with the Celtics in Atlanta, where they'll face the Hawks tonight.

The team said his absence is for personal reasons. Hayward's wife, Robyn, is expecting their third child any day now. That is the most likely reason for his absence from the one-game trip. 

Hayward had eight points, three rebounds and four assists in the 122-116 victory over the Memphis Grizzlies on Friday night. He's averaging 11 points, 4.7 rebounds and 3.6 assists this season.

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Report: Celtics mentioned as destination for Bradley Beal

Report: Celtics mentioned as destination for Bradley Beal

The Celtics' first-half struggles, not to mention the recent drama surrounding Kyrie Irving and his teammates, have some wondering if a change of scenery for some players might be in the offing to jump-start a second-half push up the Eastern Conference standings.

With the Feb. 7 trade deadline nearing, Boston was mentioned in a Bleacher Report story as a possible destination for a player who could perhaps be the NBA's most coveted at the deadline, the Washington Wizards' Bradley Beal.

Beal, 25, has averaged 29.8 points on 45.7 shooting over his past 10 games since Washington lost his backcourt mate, John Wall, to season-ending surgery. Ken Berger's story reports that a "conga line of contenders have kicked the tires on Beal, by far the Wizards' most valuable - and most tradeable - asset."

Of the Celtics, Berger writes:

With the Celtics struggling to find an identity—and defined roles for their plethora of wing players—there could be a path to a deal. Jaylen Brown, the expiring contract of Marcus Morris or Aron Baynes (2019-20 player option) and a first-round pick would have the makings of a compelling offer, according to one executive. The C’s could win the East with a core of Kyrie Irving, Beal, Jayson Tatum and Al Horford. Whether the Wizards would want to help Boston is another story.

Beal has two years and $56 million remaining on his contract. 

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