Injuries on Top of Insult: Celtics Will Miss Three Starters in Cleveland

Jaylen Brown, at left, and Gordon Hayward of the Celtics

Getty Jaylen Brown, at left, and Gordon Hayward of the Celtics

Maybe worse than losing an 18-point lead in the fourth quarter and allowing Nets wing Caris LeVert to score 51 points (37 in the fourth quarter and overtime) on Tuesday night was the way the Celtics also got pummeled on the injury front The team’s injury report showed the aftermath.

Gordon Hayward injured his knee and left the game at halftime. Jaylen Brown injured his hamstring and left for the fourth quarter. Jayson Tatum was out the entire game with an illness. Kemba Walker, on a minutes restriction in his first game back from a knee injury, could not play in overtime.

It’s fortunate that the Celtics play the lowly Cavaliers on Wednesday night in the second game of a back-to-back because the rotation will be far from normal.

Tallying the loss of bodies in the Brooklyn game, coach Brad Stevens said, “I have no idea who’s going to Cleveland. I think most of the coaches are going, couple players. I just want eight guys, nine guys – whoever’s going to play hard, let’s go.”

Jayson Tatum Might Play vs. Cavaliers

According to the injury report, Tatum could play against the Cavs but is listed only as “probable.”

Other than that, the Celtics will certainly be without three starters: Walker, who will not play back-to-backs; Hayward, who described his knee injury as, “definitely sore, just take it day by day”; and Brown, who did not speak to reporters on Tuesday.

Cleveland is 17-44 on the season but has played better lately, going 4-4 in their last eight. They added center Andre Drummond, once rumored to be a Celtics trade target, at the deadline and have been a tougher team since.

The Cavs also parted ways with coach John Beilein a half-year into his first season. Coach J.B. Bickerstaff has had Cleveland playing much better offensively since he took over after the All-Star break.

Celtics Were Just Getting Healthy

For the Celtics, it’s especially disappointing to see the injury bug come back at a time when it looked like the team was finally getting healthy.  Walker was back in the lineup on Tuesday, as was center Robert Williams, who had been out with a hip injury since December 6.

Injuries have been part of the landscape for Boston, which has used 16 different starting lineups and will use a 17th in Cleveland. The team’s projected group—Walker, Hayward, Brown, Tatum and Daniel Theis—has been the starting five in only 16 games this year.

For the most part, the injuries are not too worrisome. The team is not expecting to be without Hayward for long and Walker will continue to work his way back to health—the Celtics only have three back-to-backs left. Brown’s hamstring could be an issue, though. The severity of the injury is uncertain and hamstring problems can linger.

Theis and Tatum should start on Wednesday. But the team likely would have Brad Wanamaker and Marcus Smart in the backcourt with either Grant Williams or Semi Ojeleye as the other forward with Tatum.

If Tatum can’t go, the Celtics will truly be in dire straits. A starting five of Wanamaker, Smart, Williams, Ojeleye and Theis would come in with a combined scoring average of 35.0 points per game. Hopefully, as Stevens said, they at least play hard.

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