Celtics, minus Irving, start long road stretch vs. Magic

By The Sports Xchange  |  March 16, 2018 at 12:53 PM
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The Boston Celtics know they are heading on the road for most of the next two weeks. They hope to get some clarity on which players will be able to suit up once the games start.

One player not expected to appear in Friday's visit to the Orlando Magic is Kyrie Irving.

As the Celtics (46-22) start a stretch where they play six of seven on the road before a March 31 home meeting with the Toronto Raptors, Irving will likely miss a second straight game with a sore left knee.

Irving is traveling for the weekend trip and based on coach Brad Stevens' comments Wednesday the star guard is unlikely to play Friday but could return for Sunday's game against the New Orleans Pelicans.

"Just got some soreness and some pain in that knee and, again, not something that you wouldn't have guessed he'd have some of," Stevens told reporters. "But obviously creeping up twice in 10 days, we want to be very careful with that."

Irving's knee issues cropped up after he aggravated it in a loss at Houston on March 3 when he shot 6 of 17 and scored 18 points. He sat out a 105-89 win at Chicago on March 5, scored 23 points in an eight-point win at Minnesota on March 8 but exited a 99-97 loss to Indiana at halftime with the soreness.

Overall, the Celtics are 5-3 when Irving does not play after blowing a 20-point lead in a 125-124 double-overtime loss to the Washington Wizards on Wednesday.

Jayson Tatum missed a 3-pointer just before the buzzer in the second overtime while Marcus Morris led the Celtics with 31 points on a night when Jaylen Brown (concussion protocol), Marcus Smart (sprained right thumb) and Al Horford (illness) sat out.

Horford missed his second straight game Wednesday but is expected to return Friday.

Brown absorbed a scary fall at Minnesota but will miss at least the next two games due to the lingering symptoms such as headaches that will prevent him from making the trip.

Smart is dealing with a torn tendon in his right thumb injury and won't play Friday. He's seeking second opinions, though season-ending surgery could be an option.

Without four key players along with rookie Daniel Theis, who is out for the season with a torn knee ligament, the Celtics started Terry Rozier at point guard, Tatum as the shooting guard along with Morris, Aron Baynes and Guerschon Yabusele in the frontcourt.

"We've played really well all year, and we've dealt with injuries all year," said Stevens, who lost Gordon Hayward to a season-ending knee injury on Opening night. "It started six minutes into the season, and we've figured it out. That's the expectation. We're just going to work as hard as we can, put in as much as we can that fits, and try our best to figure it out."

Orlando (21-48) can relate to key injuries but is coming off a 126-117 home win over the Milwaukee Bucks on Wednesday that halted a five-game losing streak.

Evan Fournier missed his fourth straight with a sprained left knee and leading scorer Aaron Gordon sat for the fourth straight game due to a second visit to the league's concussion protocol this season.

Without its two-leading scorers, Orlando rebounded from a 108-72 loss at San Antonio Tuesday by shooting 50.6 percent and getting a career-high 35 points from Jonathon Simmons and 32 from D.J. Augustin after averaging 90.4 points in the five-game skid.

"I talked about how important the rest of our season is and our guys understand very clearly that the basketball right now is very important," Orlando coach Frank Vogel told reporters. "What we do right now is very important on the basketball court. It's a time of growth. We're giving some of our younger guys bigger-than-usual opportunities for them to grow, but it's also an important time for our veterans to grow within our system as well and develop habits."

Simmons and Augustin combined to shoot 13 of 21 from 3-point range as the Magic set a team record at home by hitting 18 3-pointers.

"(Tuesday night) was a tough game for us, but it happens to the best of us," Augustin told reporters. "We put it behind us, went out there and shared the ball, helped each other out on defense and played with a lot more energy."

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