BOSTON – Injuries have taken the element of elite, All-Star caliber talent out of the equation for the Celtics.
No Kyrie Irving (left knee).
No Gordon Hayward (left ankle).
And no Marcus Smart (right thumb), at least not for this first-round series.
Still, the Celtics do have the element of surprise working for them, especially in tight games, which have been good to the C's this season.
The Celtics have made five, go-ahead baskets in the final five seconds of games this season. That's tops in the NBA.
And they’ve relied on a multitude of players in those moments, something they see as a plus as they begin their postseason journey on Sunday at the TD Garden against the Milwaukee Bucks, a team that the Celtics were 2-2 against in the regular season.
Having multiple players to go to down the stretch of a close game - players who have come up big this season - serves as one of the silver linings for the injury-riddled Celtics.
“It makes us a little bit harder to prepare and plan for,” said Celtics assistant Micha Shrewsberry. “We have a lot of different guys hit last-second shots. Jaylen Brown, Terry Rozier, Marcus Morris, Al Horford. Now, you go into the last second like, ‘who’s gonna take that shot? Who are they gonna go to?”
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It’s also a huge confidence boost for players who have waited for an opportunity to become more of a go-to performer.
“Those guys take pride in knowing, I can step up in that moment,” Shrewsberry said. “Whoever’s number he draws up, everybody has the confidence that this is the right thing for our team.”
That confidence comes with a super-sized chip on the shoulder of most Celtics, who are well aware that many pundits have them as one of the likely high seeds to get bounced in the first round.
Marcus Morris acknowledges that such talk only fuels his passion to compete.
“Like myself, as I know all the players on the team, you looking at the doubt and that’s motivation,” Morris said. “People counting you out, you’re not gonna do this or do that. It’s gotta be motivation, prove everybody wrong. Still, we’re in Boston. We have high expectations. We want to come out and try to fulfill them as best we can.”