Celtics injuries start to catch up with them

191544.jpg

Celtics injuries start to catch up with them

By A.Sherrod Blakely
CSNNE.com

BOSTON The Boston Celtics have been a no-excuse team all season.

Injuries be damned, finding a way to win was still the primary mission.

But the more you watch this beat-up Celtics team play, it's clear that the injuries are starting to catch up with them.

The C's are good enough and deep enough to beat most teams with a short-handed roster.

However, victories against the league's elite teams are a lot tougher to come by with a patchwork lineup, which was exactly what the Celtics had to work with in a 92-86 loss Thursday night to the Los Angeles Lakers.

Boston came into the game with just 10 players healthy.

Among those unable to play were Marquis Daniels (bruised spinal cord); Semih Erden (right adductor strain); Jermaine O'Neal (left knee surgery); Shaquille O'Neal (right Achilles); and Delonte West (right wrist).

The C's didn't even get to halftime before their roster of healthy bodies was reduced to nine.

Nate Robinson suffered a right knee bruise after less than four minutes of action, and is scheduled to have an MRI performed on Friday.

One of the strengths of the Celtics has been their ability to play through adversity.

Most nights, it's not a problem.

On Thursday?

Big problem.

A 14-4 run in the second quarter brought the Lakers within striking distance. A fast start by Kobe Bryant put the Celtics on their heels and they were never able to recover and regain control of the game.

"Mentally we were not a very good team and usually we are," said C's coach Doc Rivers. "I didn't think we fought hard enough through adversity, and we're great at that usually."

Fighting through tough times becomes even more daunting when the number of healthy bodies continues to dwindle away.

"It definitely hurts when you don't have the normal guys come off the bench to kind of spell you," said Paul Pierce. "Certain guys played extended minutes, but that's no excuse."

Maybe not, but it does provide an explanation for why the Celtics are struggling for the first time all season - they've lost three of their last four games.

Life doesn't get any easier for the Celtics, who will host the Miami Heat on Sunday afternoon in a game pitting the top two teams in the Eastern Conference against each other.

While these games often serve as an early litmus test, the C's can't read anything into that game - or Thursday's loss - in large part because so many of the players that the Celtics would use in case they met in the playoffs, are out with injuries.

West, who was not expected back until after the All-Star break, might return as early as Sunday's game against the Heat.

Rivers said there was some discussion among the medical staff about possibly playing West against the Lakers.

Because no consensus was reached, Rivers decided to keep him out in Thursday's loss.

"He's going to practice Saturday," Rivers said of West. "I would like him actually to play in the New Jersey game on Wednesday just to get him one game. But even if he does play Sunday, let's say, it will be 5 or 10 minutes. It won't be much either way."

Regardless of whether West returns, the Celtics are going to need some seldom-used reserves to step up in a big way in these final two games before the all-star break.

The player most poised to do so is Von Wafer, who had eight points against the Lakers.

Wafer scored all of his points in the first half.

"I played basketball; I just played basketball," he said. "That's what I do. That's what I get paid to do."

He'll get an opportunity to do more of that in these final two games as the Celtics limp towards the All-star break with a beaten and battered team.

As for the players that are out with injuries, Rivers isn't thinking about them right now.

"They weren't here," Rivers said. "So, you know what I mean. What am I supposed to . . . they're not here, so the fact is Shaq and JO, it doesn't matter tonight. We had what we had. Whether it would've made a difference or not, I don't know the answer, is what I'm saying."

A. Sherrod Blakely can be reached atsblakely@comcastsportsnet.com.Follow Sherrod on Twitter at http:twitter.comsherrodbcsn

Marcus Smart will get start for Celtics for injured Isaiah Thomas

Marcus Smart will get start for Celtics for injured Isaiah Thomas

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.”