The injury bug has bitten the Boston Celtics early and often.
The Celtics lost one of their best players in Gordon Hayward for the season just five minutes into the 2017-18 campaign, but Boston’s overall health hasn’t gotten much better since.
Several key players have been sidelined with injury for at least one game through the first 14 contests, including Marcus Morris, Marcus Smart and Al Horford. Kyrie Irving became the latest injured Celtic on Friday, as the star guard suffered a minor facial fracture against the Charlotte Hornets which kept him out of Sunday’s game against the Toronto Raptors.
The Celtics didn’t let Irving’s injury derail their recent strong play, though, as the C’s were able to extend their winning streak to 12 with a nail-biting 95-94 win over the Raptors at TD Garden. Horford’s (21 points) return to action certainly helped the cause, but the increased production of Boston’s guards was critical in the victory.
Smart started in place of Irving at point guard, and the fourth-year player made the most of his opportunity. Smart posted 14 points to go along with nine assists and five rebounds while leading the Celtics with a plus-11 rating. Terry Rozier also shined in the win, registering 16 points, six rebounds and three assists in 28 minutes of action.
After the game, Rozier praised his teammates for elevating their game when their number is called.
“We know we have to hold it down for our players who are out,” Rozier said, as seen on NBC Sports Boston’s Celtics postgame coverage. “We’ve been having that next-man-up mentality all year. When one man goes down, the next man has to step up. We all just played hard tonight and we got the win, we pulled it out.”
Irving is expected to return to the Celtics for Tuesday night’s game against the Brooklyn Nets at Barclays Center, so it looks like the C’s won’t be without their star player for an extended period of time. While Boston certainly is hoping to get healthy quickly, it has discovered early on that it can make do with a number of different lineup combinations.
Here are some other notes from Celtics-Raptors:
— Boston owned a 46-36 rebounding advantage over Toronto. The C’s now have outrebounded their opponent in nine of their last 10 games.
— Rozier’s 16 points matched his career high.
— This is the second time this season the Celtics have held their opponent to less than 100 points in at least three consecutive games. Boston accomplished this feat only once last season.
— No other NBA team has a winning streak longer than six games this season.
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