WALTHAM -- Tuesday’s game against Toronto ranks among the biggest mile-marker-like games on the Celtics' schedule.
And like so many of their big matchups this season, they’ll go into it without one of their key players.
The right Achilles injury that kept Avery Bradley out of Saturday’s 117-108 win over New Orleans will keep him sidelined Tuesday night, as well. All indications at this point are that the earliest Bradley will return to the floor will be Wednesday against the Washington Wizards.
“He felt a lot better after treatment yesterday, today,” said coach Brad Stevens, adding that he was told Bradley’s return would likely be 5-7 days after the injury initially happened last week. “The fifth day would be Wednesday.”
With the team traveling to Toronto this afternoon for Tuesday night’s game against the Raptors, it didn’t make a lot of sense to have him be with the team for a game that he wasn’t going to play in.
The timing of Bradley’s injury -- as if there’s a good time to be hurt, which there isn’t -- comes as the Celtics are poised to potentially break through against the one team that stands between them and truly establishing themselves as an Eastern Conference power.
“They’re really good,” Stevens said of the Raptors. “You want to go in fully healthy, but that’s part of it. That’s part of an NBA season. You play guys that are available. We’re going to have to play really good collectively to win.”
CHICAGO – The Chicago Bulls are listing Rajon Rondo as being “OUT” for Friday night’s Game 6 matchup against the Boston Celtics.
Rondo, speaking in Boston prior to the Bulls’ Game 5 loss, didn’t sound all that optimistic that his fractured right thumb would be healed in time to suit up for Game 6.
So why are the Celtics still preparing as though the four-time all-star will see action?
Because they know Rondo.
“He’s tough,” said Boston’s Avery Bradley, who saw first-hand Rondo play with a dislocated elbow when he was a member of the Celtics. “We used to say back then, you always want to play with your dogs; people that are going to play hard no matter what and just want to go out there and compete at a high level and that’s Rondo. If he’s hurt, he’s going to try to help his team no matter what and I know that.
Bradley added, “that’s why I know it’s a possibility that he does come back Game 6, but that doesn’t change our game plan. It just makes the game that more fun. That’s what it’s all about, competing against the best players.”
Rondo’s toughness and grit has never been questioned, but this is a different kind of injury.
We’re talking about his thumb to his ball-handling, dominant hand.
And for someone who is such a pass-first, and second and third and … type of player, Rondo has to give some thought to potentially making the injury worst if it’s not fully healed.
As tough as Rondo is, he’s also smart enough to know whether his return at would be significantly less than his best, would help the Bulls at this point in the series.
Prior to Game 3, the Celtics had already implemented a game plan on how they wanted to play with the assumption that Rondo was going to play.
When the Celtics learned that he was going to be out, Celtics head coach Brad Stevens said the team’s game plan didn’t change.
And whether he plays or not in Game 6, Stevens reiterated his team’s approach and preparation won’t be altered.
“It’s not going to change how we are trying to play on either end of the floor,” Stevens told reporters prior to the team’s practice at the United Center on Thursday. “And I think that’s something we evaluated after Game 2. We kind of determined a course of action before we knew that he was out. So regardless of if he’s out or not, we’re going to have to play our best game tomorrow night. We know that.”
Prior to suffering the injury in Game 2, Rondo was instrumental in the Bulls winning Games 1 and 2 of this best-of-seven series, in Boston. In Games 3, 4 and 5 - all with Rondo sidelined - the Celtics have been able to wrestle control of the series away from Chicago and can eliminate them on Friday with a win.
BOSTON – There are many factors you can point to in the regular season as indicators of what may happen when two NBA teams meet in the playoffs.
You don't have to be inside the Chicago Bulls' locker room to know that when it comes to the Celtics, they were fully prepared to face a team that took a lot of 3's but wasn’t necessarily shooting them at a high percentage.
That reality has certainly come into focus in Boston’s first-round series against the Chicago, one the C’s lead 3-2 as they continue to try and 3-point shoot their way on to the next round – without giving a damn how many long-range shots it takes to get the job done.
In five playoff games, Boston is shooting 45.3 percent from the field, which puts them in the middle of the pack (eighth overall) among the 16 teams that qualified for the postseason.
But when it comes to the long ball, they are on the back-nine of playoff teams, ranking 10th while shooting 32.4 percent from 3-point range while leading all postseason clubs with 38.7 3-point attempts per game.
In the regular season, the Celtics ranked 16th in field-goal percentage (.454) and 14th in 3-point shooting (35.9 percent) while attempting 33.4 3's per game, which trailed only Houston (40.3) and Cleveland (33.9) this season.
Boston's shooting from the field mirrors what it did in the regular season, but they know all too well that their shooting percentage in this series should be much higher due to the high number of open shots they have missed.
Take a look at Game 5.
In the 108-97 win, the Celtics shot an impressive 53.1 percent when their shots were contested.
But let the Bulls have a defensive breakdown like a failed switch, or a guy gets beat for what turns into a great opportunity for Boston to score with no resistance, and instead of burying the open shot, the Celtics have consistently blown those opportunities. That’s evident by the C’s connecting on just 30.8 percent (12-for-39) of their uncontested field-goal attempts in Game 5.
Even the usually reliable Isaiah Thomas had issues making uncontested shots in Game 5 and this series as a whole.
He had 24 points and shared game-high scoring honors with Avery Bradley on Wednesday night, but Thomas probably should have led everyone outright in scoring when you consider he had five open shots and wound up missing four of them.
That’s why when it comes to Boston’s offense, the last thing Thomas or any of his teammates complains about is getting the shots they want.
“I’ve been getting good open looks,” he said. “My teammates have been getting me open. We just got to knock down the shots. Coach [Stevens] keeps saying one day soon we’re going to knock down the open shots that we are missing and it might be [Game 6].”