BOSTON Finally, some good news on the health injury front for the Boston Celtics. Rajon Rondo, who has missed practice time with a sprained right ankle, is back practicing with the team."He looked great," said coach Doc Rivers, who added that Rondo would likely play in tonight's intrasquad scrimmage at the Garden.As for Paul Pierce (right heel), he is not expected to play tonight or in the C's preseason opener at Toronto on Sunday."I'm always worried when guys don't play; just the timing," Rivers said.But if there's a player the C's can afford to sit out now and rest his body, it's Pierce."Just because of his ability to play," Rivers said. "He's a natural scorer."In addition to Pierce, the Celtics will also be without Jeff Green who remains unable to practice after failing the stress test prior to the start of training camp.Another player's health to keep an eye on is Sasha Pavlovic, who has a sprained left wrist injury suffered when he took a spill and landed on the hand awkwardly, earlier this week.
As expected, Marcus Smart will get the start for the Boston Celtics tonight against the Orlando Magic in place of the injured Isaiah Thomas.
Thomas, who leads the Celtics (12-9) in scoring (26.0) and assists (6.2) this season, suffered a right groin injury in Boston’s 107-106 loss at Houston on Monday.
Head coach Brad Stevens explained his decision a few minutes ago.
“He’s started a lot of games here in the past as a point guard,” Stevens told reporters. “He’s basically our sixth starter. It wasn’t one that I had to think a ton about.”
Starting Smart also allows second-year guard Terry Rozier to continue in his role coming off the bench.
Whether he’s starting or coming off the bench, Smart’s production has been consistent.
In the five games he has started this season, he has averaged 10.0 points, 4.2 rebounds and 4.0 assists per game.
His numbers off the bench are almost identical with Smart averaging 9.6 points, 4.0 rebounds and 3.9 assists as a reserve.
Stevens also mentioned that Amir Johnson would be back in the starting lineup in place of Jonas Jerebko. Earlier in the day, Stevens told reporters the decision to start Jerebko on Monday was strictly because of the matchup with Houston.
“We have to be able to be flexible in doing that,” Stevens said. “Houston plays four guards. We didn’t feel like we could defend them unless we switch one through four. I thought he (Jerebko) did a pretty good job. This (Orlando) team is different than Houston other than both are super-hot.”
Orlando (10-12) has won four of its last five games in part because of its size, strength and versatility along the frontline which includes Serge Ibaka, Bismack Biyombo and Nikola Vucevic who now comes off the bench.
And while the Celtics have benefited heavily from the play of their guards, obviously that plan will be amended tonight with Thomas out.
“He (Thomas) generates a lot in the open offense what we call flow, spread offense,” Stevens said. “So some of those type of things you may not generate at the same rate. But certainly there are other ways that we’ll look to play when he’s not in the game normally, or when we’re trying to play through bigs in the post. You have different ways to play within all your schemes. Hopefully we can play to each other’s strengths and go from there.”
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