Celtics faced with more adversity after Barbosa injury

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Celtics faced with more adversity after Barbosa injury

CHARLOTTE, N.C. Regardless of whether Leandro Barbosa's left knee injury ends his season, the Boston Celtics find themselves once again having to deal with adversity.

A slow start led to cat calls for Danny Ainge to "blow" the team up, whatever that means.

A six-game winning streak quieted things momentarily, only to be followed by a six game losing skid.

Rajon Rondo went down for the season with a torn right ACL injury that was diagnosed on Jan. 27. Just three days later, Jared Sullinger had back surgery and he too was lost for the season.

Boston ran off seven straight wins, so all was good ... until Monday's 94-91 loss to Charlotte which saw the end of their streak and yet another Celtic player go down.

Leandro Barbosa was driving to the basket while being defended by Gerald Henderson. He made a pivot move, passed the ball back to the top of the key and began limping.

Moments later, he was on the floor in serious pain.

The Celtics say he has a left knee injury and will have an MRI this morning. Until then they won't officially know his status, but there are strong indications that he won't be back on the floor this season.

And so once again the Celtics will likely have to manage to get by with a roster that continues to get more and more depleted by the day.

"It comes with playing hard, and injuries happen in this league," said Boston's Jeff Green. "Guys have to step up and continue to come together as a team."

It seemed relatively easy for this group to figure out what to do when Rondo went down. As Boston's primary ball-handler, simply spreading the ball-handling duties around did the trick.

When Sullinger went down, Boston was forced to play more three-guard lineups. Rather than stay big against Boston, the Celtics found that many teams went small as well which gave them a better chance at holding their own or possibly winning the battle on the boards.

But in losing Barbosa, the Celtics have no way of getting a player from their current group that brings the kind of sprinter-like speed to the game along with the instant offense, that Barbosa has been able to deliver constantly.

And while he doesn't play a ton of minutes now, he is a great luxury for Doc Rivers to have on those nights when the offense sputters and the C's could use an aggressive scorer in the backcourt to get baskets.

The C's locker room was indeed a glum place following Monday's game.

"The blow of Barbosa is kind of the fog or the cloud that's in the room right now," said Kevin Garnett.

Even with Barbosa's injury, there were some Celtics players that remained hopeful that the MRI to be performed later today will show that the injury isn't that serious.

But when you see the pained expression on his face as he squirmed around the Time Warner Cable Arena floor, and the way he continued to grimace in pain as team trainer Ed Lacerte and teammate Fab Melo carried him off the court, it's hard to imagine that he will be back in time for Wednesday's game against Chicago - the C's last game before the All-Star break.

And if he is out for the rest of the season, Barbosa's injury will be the latest setback for a team that seems to keep getting hit with one setback after another - and still continue to fight on.

"We always go through stuff," said Celtics guard Avery Bradley. "We're able to overcome it because we're so close as a team. We just stick together. We'll be fine."

But seeing Barbosa go down is a tough one to swallow for his teammates.

The last man to sign with the Celtics before the season started, Barbosa instantly won over his teammates with his seemingly always-upbeat demeanor.

And when an illness in his family forced him to return to Brazil recently, a number of his teammates reached out to him before he left, while he was in Brazil and of course, after he returned to Boston.

Even though he doesn't play to the crowd, Barbosa has indeed become a fan favorite.

"Of course we feel bad for him. He's like a brother to me," Bradley said. "Just like I would for any of my teammates. I'll pray for him tonight and just hope that he gets better."

First-place Celtics continue to focus on playing well, not standings

First-place Celtics continue to focus on playing well, not standings

WALTHAM, Mass. – When it comes to NBA standings, no Celtic pays closer attention to it than Isaiah Thomas.
 
But the 5-foot-9 All-Star is quick to say that while he’s aware of what’s happening with other teams record-wise, Thomas, like his teammates, isn’t obsessed with it, even with the Celtics (48-26) now in first place in the East following Cleveland’s loss at San Antonio on Monday.
 
“It’s a good feeling,” Thomas said. “It’s still not the end of the year; anything can happen. It’s a nice feeling to be the number one seed for once, but we just have to continue to control what we can control.”

The fact that Boston is even in position to finish with the best record in the East is amazing when you consider injuries and illnesses have forced them to use 13 different starting lineups this season.
 
And the preferred starting five of Isaiah Thomas, Avery Bradley, Jae Crowder, Al Horford and Amir Johnson has played together 31 times and posted an impressive 24-7 record.
 
Celtics coach Brad Stevens has been consistent in his message that while having the best record in the East is nice, he’s more consumed with the team continuing to improve.
 
“It doesn’t mean a whole lot right now,” Stevens said of being in first place. “The whole idea is to make progress, get better every day and stay in the moment. You do that if you’re in last place trying to build up or whether you’re in a position where you’re fighting for seeding. Ultimately, we’ve been able to grow and get a little bit better. But I still think we can play a lot better. That’s where my focus is.”
 
And the same holds true for his players. Thomas knows how unusual this season has been for the Celtics, who continue finding ways to win despite frequently being short-handed.
 
The latest example of that involves forward Jonas Jerebko, who is questionable for Wednesday’s game against Milwaukee because of a sore left knee that limited him in Tuesday’s practice.
 
“It’s a long season. A lot of things can happen whether they be good or bad and we know that,” Thomas said. “We just try to withstand the storm we’ve had a few times this year, and continue to try and stay as positive as possible and we’ve done that. We’re in a good position right now. We just have to continue to take care of business.”
  
And that means steadily improving while piling up the wins, particularly against teams such as the Bucks (37-36), who are among a handful of teams that could potentially be Boston’s first-round opponent.
 
Milwaukee comes in having won 11 of its past 14 games.

“It makes the game that much more important,” said Celtics guard Avery Bradley. “Just like the Miami game. We want to let the teams know now, they go up against us in the playoffs, it’s no mercy. We’re going to play hard. We’re going to bring it every single night. We’re going to play Celtics basketball every single night. Them knowing that, we can scare a lot of teams if we’re playing the right way.”

Jerebko questionable for Wednesday against Bucks

Jerebko questionable for Wednesday against Bucks

WALTHAM, Mass. – The Celtics have spent most of this season playing short-handed and Wednesday’s game against Milwaukee will potentially be another one of those games.
 
Veteran forward Jonas Jerebko has a sore left knee and is considered questionable for the Bucks’ game.
 
“Jonas went through about half of [Tuesday’s] practice,” said Celtics coach Brad Stevens.
 
Jerebko has missed two games this season due to illness.
 
Because of Milwaukee’s length at seemingly every position, Jerebko’s ability to play both forward positions will be something the Celtics will surely miss if he’s unable to play.
 
This season, Jerebko has appeared in 69 games while averaging 3.9 points and 3.4 rebounds while shooting 44.1 percent from the field and 35.0 percent on 3’s.