Injury-riddled Celtics to piece together lineup vs. Wizards

By Mike Shalin, The Sports Xchange  |  March 14, 2018 at 12:20 AM
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Celtics coach Brad Stevens should be able to scrape together a lineup for Wednesday night's game against the Washington Wizards at TD Garden.

Boston, which has played the entire season -- minus a few minutes -- without the injured Gordon Hayward, has been hammered over the past several days and enters Wednesday night's game minus at least two starters and two valuable reserves.

Thursday night in Minneapolis, Jaylen Brown failed to hold onto the rim on a dunk and landed on his head and neck. He suffered a concussion, which was actually considered lucky because there was no structural damage and he is in the NBA concussion protocol and slated to miss at least a week.

Kyrie Irving, who makes the Boston attack run, left Sunday night's loss to the Indiana Pacers with left knee soreness and will rest the knee for several games.

To make things worse, the Celtics lost rookie big man Daniel Theis to knee surgery for the season and Marcus Smart, who had the best shooting night of his career Sunday, went down with a right thumb injury. The original report was a torn tendon but club president Danny Ainge refuted that report Monday, saying it was a sprain until they knew more.

Then, Tuesday word came Smart was awaiting a second opinion and Mark Murphy of the Boston Herald cited league sources saying the Celtics didn't know if Smart will play again this season.

Regardless, the injury report for Wednesday and beyond was dismal.

Al Horford, out Sunday with illness, is also questionable for Wednesday.

"We are equipped and we will battle on I think is the way you've gotta look at it," Stevens said Monday. "I've never been in a season that's been like this, and obviously it started right out of the gates this way with Gordon's (injury)."

The Celtics are firmly entrenched in second place in the Eastern Conference, four behind the sizzling (nine straight wins) Toronto Raptors for the top spot and well ahead the Pacers and Cleveland Cavaliers for spots 3 and 4. They have two games left against the Raptors but a realistic goal seems to be just getting their players ready for a playoff series against the seventh seed.

Boston is 7-6 over its last 13 games.

The Wizards, the Southeast Division leaders still playing without injured star John Wall, had a five-game winning streak smashed in a 27-point loss at Miami on Saturday night. Tuesday night, they dropped a 116-111 home decision to the Minnesota Timberwolves.

"We got to get stops. We got to stop worrying about scoring," coach Scott Brooks said after a second straight defensive swoon.

Wall, out for the last six weeks after arthroscopic knee surgery, is working out but there's still no target date for a return.

"This Wednesday will be six weeks, and we said six to eight weeks," Brooks said Saturday night in Miami. "It won't be six weeks."

As far as his situation, Irving said, "I think (rest) will probably be the best thing, just instead of kind of hoping it gets better over the two or three days that it usually does. It's aching a little bit more than I wanted it to now, so I'm taking the necessary time."

The teams, who engaged in a vicious seven-game playoff series last spring, split the first two contests of their four-game season series, both winning on the other's court.

Washington captured the first meeting Christmas Day in Boston, 111-103 behind 25 points from Bradley Beal and 14 assists from Wall. The Celtics won 110-104 at Washington on Feb. 8, as Irving scored 28.

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