Celtics

Celtics

The Phoenix Suns (19-55) are going nowhere fast. 

Their best player Devin Booker has missed four-straight games with a right hand injury.

T.J. Warren, their No. 2 scorer behind Booker, has swelling in his left knee and like Booker, he too is questionable for tonight’s game against the Boston Celtics. 

The Suns won’t get any sympathy from the Celtics (50-23) who have had their share of injuries all season and will go into the postseason short at least one core player (Marcus Smart, right thumb) and probably two (Kyrie Irving, left knee).

And that is what makes what the Celtics have done this season so impressive.

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Losing Gordon Hayward five minutes into the season would have been enough to devastate most teams with deep playoff aspirations. 

Tack on the loss of Irving who will wind up missing the final 15 regular season games following a procedure performed on his left knee on Saturday and 22 games total this season when all is said and done, you have a franchise that few would have envisioned winning 50 games all year let alone with another nine left to be played. 

Their success hinges on players taking Brad Stevens’ never-ending message about staying ready, to heart.

And just because you play well one night doesn’t guarantee minutes will be their afterwards. 

 “I haven’t seen a whole lot of angst with regard to when guys go in, if they go in or not,” Stevens said. “Everybody wants to play, but everybody just has to be ready for their time and if there’s ever a better example of you have to be prepared, it’s this year.”

 

It’s one thing for guys who rarely play to be ready to compete. 

But it’s an entirely different matter when you’re winning games with seldom-used, end-of-the-bench players the way the Celtics have been doing throughout the season. 

When the season began, second-round pick Semi Ojeleye was hoping to play well enough to get a guaranteed contract. And rookie Abdel Nader was hoping to work his way into being on the active roster. 

Because of injuries, it’s not a stretch to say that both may very well be in Boston’s regular rotation at the start of the playoffs. 

“Every one of those guys that played meaningful minutes could play a meaningful role in the playoffs,” Stevens said. “We gotta be ready; everybody has to be ready.”

Said Jaylen Brown: “We have a really tough team. We have a team full of guys that are really resilient.”

And winners; tough, resilient winners. 

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