Robert Williams

Celtics' Robert Williams (back) could return Friday vs. Pacers

Celtics' Robert Williams (back) could return Friday vs. Pacers

Perhaps we shouldn't be surprised that normal timetables don't apply to the Time Lord.

The Boston Celtics listed both Robert Williams (low back contusion) and Al Horford (left knee soreness) as probable Thursday for Friday's home game against the Indiana Pacers.

That's great news for Williams, who injured his back on a hard fall last Saturday night against the Charlotte Hornets. Head coach Brad Stevens suggested Williams could miss around the same amount of time as Jaylen Brown, who sat out six games over two-plus weeks after suffering a similar injury in March 2018.

But it sounds like the rookie big man could return Friday after just a two-game absence, giving Boston frontcourt depth as it manages Horford's workload down the stretch.

The Celtics could use all hands on deck against the Pacers, who sit one game ahead of them in the Eastern Conference standings with seven games remaining.

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Here's the latest on Robert Williams, Jayson Tatum back injuries

Here's the latest on Robert Williams, Jayson Tatum back injuries

The Boston Celtics added injury to insult in Charlotte on Saturday night.

Center Robert Williams III exited with a back contusion after suffering a hard fall in the second quarter, while forward Jayson Tatum also injured his back late in Boston's 124-117 loss to the Hornets.

After the game, Celtics head coach Brad Stevens provided updates on both players and suggested Williams could be sidelined for some time.

"I'm guessing we're looking at a Jaylen (Brown) timeframe from this year, at least," Stevens said of Williams.

Brown injured his back in a similar fashion in a March 2018 game against the Minnesota and missed Boston's next six games during a two-plus-week absence.

A similar timetable for Williams, who made his first career NBA start Saturday night, would peg his return right around the end of the regular season. It's tough timing for Boston, as big men Al Horford and Aron Baynes both are nursing injuries that kept them out Saturday night.

Stevens said Tatum is "being looked at for the same thing" as Williams, adding he didn't know the severity of Tatum's injury. Tatum's fall didn't look as bad as Williams', but he's the Celtics' second-leading scorer and would be a tough loss even if he only misses a game or two.

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Kyrie Irving unplugged on Celtics' 'young guys,' approach to defending Hornets' Kemba Walker

Kyrie Irving unplugged on Celtics' 'young guys,' approach to defending Hornets' Kemba Walker

Kyrie Irving didn’t say much following Boston’s 124-117 loss at Charlotte. 

But on Saturday, Irving delivered a stinging rebuke of his teammates as well as a not-so-subtle dig at the coaching staff in their approach to defending Charlotte All-Star Kemba Walker. 

“The game was over in the beginning of the fourth quarter,” Irving told reporters. “We took our foot off the gas pedal; it got to a five-point game, momentum shifted from there.”

He was then asked what does the team talk about following a game like this, one in which the Celtics had an 18-point lead in the fourth quarter only to allow the Hornets to close out the game with a 30-5 run. 

“Being more mature down the stretch,” Irving said. 

To see Boston lose a game in this fashion isn’t all that surprising when you consider one of the stronger character traits of this team is their ability to let huge leads go to the point where they eventually result in a loss. 

Remember, this is the same Celtics team that blew a 28-point lead AT HOME to the Los Angeles Clippers which came right after blowing another double-digit lead at home to the other Los Angeles team, the Lakers. 

But that’s in the past, something that has little impact on the present … until you have games like the one we saw Saturday night when it seems the mental toughness that should be developing in losing games just isn’t there. 

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As Irving pointed out, the Celtics were playing the Hornets without some key players in the lineup. 

Al Horford was resting his sore knee while Aron Baynes (foot) and Gordon Hayward (concussion protocol) were out with injuries

Replacing Horford in the starting lineup was rookie Robert Williams III, but he left shortly before the half after taking a hard spill to the floor. He was unable to return after team officials determined he had suffered a lower back contusion. 

“Judge us when we have our full lineup,” Irving said. “But obviously when we come out and play like this with a bunch of young guys down the stretch, figuring things out … things are bound to happen but there’s no excuses.”

The difference-maker in the game was the play of Charlotte’s Kemba Walker who tallied a near triple-double with 36 points, 11 rebounds and nine assists.

Marcus Smart would have been the primary defender on him, but Smart was on the bench after committing a series of offensive fouls. 

And while Jayson Tatum’s length does him well when it comes to defense, Walker’s ball-handling and ability to create space off the dribble was too much for Tatum and the Celtics to handle with Walker tallying 18 of his 36 points in the fourth. 

“It’s one-on-one,” Irving said. “Down the stretch, I try to come in and help as much as possible. We should have probably trapped him more like every other team does in the league but we didn’t. He torches us every time we play them so it’s no surprise.”

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