Celtics injuries start to catch up with them

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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

Horford, Johnson wasting no time in developing chemistry

Horford, Johnson wasting no time in developing chemistry

WALTHAM, Mass. – When the news came out that Al Horford was going to be a Boston Celtic, Amir Johnson couldn’t wait to meet his new teammate.

He didn’t have to.

Johnson soon found himself on plane headed to Atlanta to not only work out with Horford, but also try and work out some of the kinks that tend to come up among new teammates in those early days of training camp.

“I took it upon myself when I saw Al was part of the team, I automatically wanted to go down to Atlanta and work,” said Johnson who added that he brought his daughter along for the trip and they went to dinner with Horford’s family during the visit. “I thought it was great just to get that chemistry going. I just wanted to get to known him, make him feel comfortable.”

It’s still early in training camp, but Johnson and Horford seem to be meshing quite well on the floor. 

“The chemistry’s definitely coming along,” Johnson said. “I know when Al wants to roll or pop, and just working my way around it. Al’s more of a popper and eventually he’ll roll. It’s up to me to read whether I stay up or work the baseline.”

Johnson has been in the NBA long enough to know that often the keys to success are subtle nuances that may be overlooked by fans and spectators, but players know are essential to them being successful.

Being able to not only understand a player’s game but figure out how to play well with them, are critical to teammates being successful.

Last season, Johnson was Boston’s primary rim-protecting big man which is a role the 29-year-old Johnson has been cast in the last few years he was in Toronto. Horford brings a similar set of defensive skills to the table which gives Boston a true 1-2 defensive punch along the frontline.

“It’s big time,” Johnson said. “We communicate to each other. It’s all about communication out there; just knowing he can hold it down and he trusts me to hold it down. It’s key.”

GREEN INJURY UPDATE

Gerald Green is expected to get a few more days to rest his hip flexor injury which he said on Thursday was feeling better.

The injury should keep the 6-6 wing from participating in the team’s Green-White scrimmage on Friday, but it isn’t considered serious.

Still, Green is eager to get back and return to full contact work which is why he is getting a steady diet of treatments during the day and returning in the evening for more treatments from the Celtics’ medical staff.

“It’s almost like a precautionary thing; make sure it doesn’t get worst,” Green said.

The injury occurred earlier this week but Green could not pinpoint exactly what he did to suffer the injury.

“I don’t think I stretched properly,” Green said. “I’m not 25 no more. Just try to come out there and go at full speed. Those are things I’ve got to learn now I’m in my 30s.”
Indeed, one of the many benefits of being older now is that Green sees the big picture of things better now, which is why he isn’t trying to rush back to the floor too quickly.

As a veteran, it’s a long season,” Green said. “You’re not trying to do too much to make it worst. Training camp is important, but being healthy at the beginning of the season is even more important.”

RUN, YOUNGSTERS, RUN

Near the end of Thursday’s practice, the Celtics had a full court game of 3-on-3 involving some of the team’s rookies and end-of-the-bench training camp invitees like Jalen Jones of Texas A&M. The 6-7 undrafted rookie had a dunk over Jordan Mickey, a 3-pointer and another strong, uncontested flush at the rim in a matter of minutes. He’s likely to wind up with Boston’s Developmental League team, the Maine Red Claws.

With Thursday morning’s session being the team’s fifth practice this season, head coach Brad Stevens thought it was a good idea to get some of the team’s younger players on the court.

“It was good to play some 3-on-3,” said Stevens who added that it was good for their conditioning since a lot of the running at this point involves trying to get the starters and the likely rotation players as acclimated and familiar with one another as possible. “We try to do that occasionally even through the season just to get everybody up and down.”

TURNOVERS? WHAT TURNOVERS?

Five practices in the books and there’s only one thing that really has stood out to the eyes of Isaiah Thomas.

It’s turnovers.

Apparently the Celtics haven’t committed too many thus far.

“We haven’t turned the ball over as much as teams usually do the first couple of days,” Thomas said. “We’re trying to learn the system, trying to get everybody familiar with what we do. But we’ve been playing well together. Guys are playing hard. Guys have gotten better, worked on their game.”

Ball-handling will be one of the areas to watch during the preseason as the Celtics look to find a replacement for Evan Turner (Portland) who has been one of the team’s best ball-handlers the past couple of seasons.

The Celtics were middle-of-the-pack last season with 13.5 turnovers per game which ranked 14th in the NBA.

Low turnovers often serve as a common trait among playoff teams. Just last season, eight of the top-nine teams in fewest turnovers committed, were in the playoffs.