BOSTON – Kyrie Irving’s status being updated to “out-for-the-year” is an absolute bummer for the Boston Celtics. But as disappointed as they may be in not having their best scorer available for the playoffs, all is not lost for the Green Team.
The Celtics have been battling without key players for most of this season and will still manage to finish with one of the top two records in the Eastern Conference. But for them to find success in the postseason, it won’t be easy.
There are factors that have to come into play, the kind that will determine just how close they can come to having that magical season so many anticipated way back in training camp.
Here are five factors that will be instrumental in Boston’s postseason journey.
The Eastern Conference is once again all over the map when it comes to the last two or three teams to get playoff spots. Boston has been a solid No. 2 in the East, with their first-round foe looking about as predictable as a Wheel of Fortune spin. Right now, they are slated to play the Washington Wizards, who talent-wise, should be seeded much higher than a No. 7. Other possible first-round foes include Miami and Milwaukee, with the Indiana Pacers a possible but unlikely opponent considering they need to win just one of their last four games to finish with a playoff seeding no worse than No. 5.
HEALTHY TERRY ROZIER
The 6-foot-2 guard was back on the court in Boston’s 96-78 loss at Toronto after missing the previous game with a left ankle sprain. Boston needs good health across the board, but particularly when it comes to Rozier. He has shown flashes of being a big-time scorer – when healthy – and for the Celtics to have the kind of postseason they envision, they will need the third-year guard to be a major factor.
MARCUS MORRIS IN RHYTHM
As we’ve gotten deeper into this season, the impact of Morris on this Celtics team has grown. He has proven to be a walking mismatch for the Celtics most nights, and has really stepped his game up of late. In the month of March, he averaged 18.9 points and 5.6 rebounds while shooting 48.3 percent from the field and 46.7 percent from 3-point range. Delivering games along those lines in the playoffs will go a long way in Boston’s quest to shock the world with a deep playoff run.
LARKIN’S CHANGE OF PACE GAME
Shane Larkin has been among the Celtics players who have elevated their play with an increased role courtesy of injuries. March was indeed a good month for the 5-foot-10 guard, as he averaged 7.7 points, 2.9 rebounds and 3.1 assists while shooting 40.9 percent from the field and 48.0 percent from 3-point range. He has missed the last couple of games battling a flu virus, but he’s progressing and should be good to go when it matters most – the playoffs.
AGGRESSIVE AL HORFORD
Al Horford is often criticized for not being as assertive as fans would like when it comes to scoring. But all acknowledge his contributions to the team’s success, many of which don’t necessarily show up in the stat sheets. That said, Horford has to be one of Boston’s most impactful players whether it’s scoring, rebounding, defense or getting shots for his teammates. But at the end of the night, his presence has been undeniable.