Without Al Horford, Jaylen Brown, and Kyrie Irving in the second half, the Boston Celtics were in a deep hole before the third quarter began. The rest of the team played well but ultimately walked away with a loss.
For the second straight time, the Indiana Pacers came into Boston and left with a win. Victor Oladipo was the best player on the court down the stretch and led the Pacers to a 99-97 victory over the Boston Celtics. Marcus Smart led Boston with 20 points and Jayson Tatum was right behind him with 19.
Here are the Four Leaf Clovers from tonight’s semi-disappointing loss.
Enough with the injuries
The Celtics were without Al Horford (illness), Jaylen Brown (concussion), and obviously Gordon Hayward (leg) to start the game. Then, Kyrie Irving left the game with leg soreness and missed the second half.
The injuries were not limited to those who sat out. Marcus Smart briefly left the game with a finger injury and Daniel Theis and Aron Baynes are both coming off minor ailments. The Celtics are banged up.
Hopefully, none of these injuries are serious besides Gordon Hayward. Boston cannot afford to head into the playoffs with any key players on the sidelines. As we saw tonight, the Celtics need just about everyone to beat good teams.
Who can we trust?
As bad as missing your best players is, it does allow Brad Stevens to see which role guys he can trust in the playoffs. Here is a list of trust/no trust.
Marcus Smart is a dog, a guy any playoff team could use. Tonight, he was the best Celtic on the court when Irving left in the second half. He can’t get enough minutes.
Jayson Tatum got the most plays called for him in the fourth quarter. Brad trusts Tatum to make plays off the dribble and make open shots. He wasn’t bad tonight. At age 20, he can already get some easy shots and free throws.
Like Smart, Terry Rozier is a guy every playoff team could use. He is a reliable, two-way point guard who gives you a jolt off the bench. He doesn’t make a lot of mistakes, and Rozier has a couple plays every game that could swing the outcome.
Marcus Morris can be a spark plug off the bench, but he could be more consistent. Still, he needs to be in the playoff rotation.
Daniel Theis is a threat on offense and smart on defense, but his one setback is playoff experience. He did play some important games in Germany, but the NBA in May is a completely different animal. Aron Baynes is a great defender but can’t score enough to get big minutes. He is too much of an offensive liability to be a must-start.
Greg Monroe has shown flashes, but he still has yet to have two back-to-back solid performances. He was great for the Bucks in the playoffs last year, so he deserves a chance to prove his worth.
The only players that Brad Stevens can’t trust are two rookies (Abdel Nader and Semi Ojeleye) that won’t make the rotation and Shane Larkin who is blocked on the depth chart by Smart and Rozier. Also, there is no playoff experience combined among the three players.
Nice try, Marcus Morris
The Boston Celtics comeback just about fell short until Marcus Morris almost saved the game. Like Marcus Smart against James Harden, Morris drew the offensive foul on the inbounds pass. Unfortunately, Rozier missed a shot that would have sent the game into overtime.
I guess Boston deserved it. I would have taken the win at any cost, but Morris flopped. You can clearly see the reaction a full second after the hit. Still, I appreciate the effort and would not have been complaining if Rozier’s shot was good.
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First Round matchup?
After the loss, the Boston Celtics remain the second seed in the Eastern Conference. They are 3.5 games behind the Toronto Raptors. Indiana has jumped all the way up to the third seed (ahead of Cleveland) but still stand seven games behind Boston. There is still plenty of time to go, but if the season ended today the Boston Celtics would play the Miami Heat in the first round.
Other possible seven seeds include Miami and Philadelphia, and even though the Pacers just jumped up to three, they could slip down to the seven spot. They seem to be outplaying their talent and are just 3 games ahead of the Heat, but let’s hope they stay up at the top because Victor Oladipo in the first round does not sound fun.
The Boston Celtics play their second game against Washington at the TD Garden on Wednesday. This is yet another game after two days off, so hopefully everyone will be healthy for the rivalry game.