The Boston Celtics are limping into the postseason.
The injury bug has bothered the Celtics since the start of the season without letting up. After Gordon Hayward suffered his brutal leg injury in the season opener, seemingly every other player on the roster has dealt with at least one nagging ailment during the campaign.
Boston currently is in the midst of its toughest collection of injuries thus far. Jaylen Brown remains out indefinitely as he works his way back from the hard fall he took last Thursday, while Al Horford missed Sunday’s game against the Indiana Pacers due to an illness. To make matters worse, Kyrie Irving (left knee soreness) was forced out of the game at halftime, allowing the Pacers to surge to a 99-97 win at TD Garden.
It’s easy to say the Celtics are hobbled at a particularly inconvenient time. With 15 regular-season games remaining, Boston can ill-afford to have key players out of the lineup as it fights for the top spot in the Eastern Conference. But in terms of the long haul and the team’s ultimate goal, these injuries could be a blessing in disguise.
Sunday’s game, albeit in a losing effort, highlighted the Celtics’ depth in a major way. Boston was forced to get creative on the offensive end without Irving and Horford in the fold, and the C’s still managed to stay the course against one of the best teams in the East. Marcus Smart (20 points) and Terry Rozier (16 points) served as the primary ballhandlers for Boston, and both guards once again proved they’re capable of leading an offense if need be.
If anything else, the upcoming handful of games can serve as a massive opportunity while the Celtics remain shorthanded. Although star power is paramount in the playoffs, depth often can be the leading factor in deciding wins and losses. So as the injured Celtics recover and gain some much-needed rest, many of the reserves are seeing extended actionnmthey might not have experienced otherwise.
And this new-found playing time for several players could pay dividends in the postseason.
Here are some other notes from Celtics-Pacers:
— Jayson Tatum (19 points) became the first Celtics rookie to log at least 30 games of 15-plus points since Paul Pierce posted 31 in the 1998-99 season.
— Scoring in double-figures has become a near certainty for Rozier lately.
— Celtics coach Brad Stevens provided an update on Irving’s knee injury after the game:
— Eight of Boston’s final 15 regular-season games are against teams currently in position to reach the playoffs.
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