Boston Celtics head coach Ime Udoka’s message prior to the Celtics’ 104-88 victory over the Toronto Raptors didn’t fall on deaf ears Wednesday as one of his appointees certainly answered the call in the absence of All-Star forward Jaylen Brown.
Brown could miss up to two weeks due to a Grade 1 hamstring strain, as he revealed after Wednesday morning’s shootaround.
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He was in street clothes taking in Boston’s first home win of the regular season — where six players scored in double figures, including Jayson Tatum’s game-high 22 points (12 rebounds, 7 assists) as Tatum flirted with a triple-double.
Celtics’ Ime Udoka Raves About Josh Richardson
Although it took the Celtics four tries to capture their first ‘W’ at TD Garden, Udoka can sleep satisfied in light of the performance of Josh Richardson, who established his presence early and often on both ends of the floor by getting into Toronto’s passing lanes, knocking down 3-pointers, and stoping guys at the rim.
“He’s solidified our bench,” Udoka said after Wednesday’s win. “We talk about him and Dennis (Schroder) when we have our whole team, having some veterans there that we can rely on every night. Jaylen has been out so he has had more opportunities with that. But, in general, that’s what we knew we had, coming in. Veteran presence off the bench.”
Richardson led the bench with 15 points (5-of-9), including a pair of 3-pointers to go with his three steals, and one block. He led the second unit’s healthy balance of youth and experience — which, the latter, was something the Celtics didn’t have at their disposal, last season, and one of the biggest reasons Udoka exuded confidence in his bench hours before tip-off, Wednesday.
Celtics’ Dennis Schroder Replaces Jaylen Brown
With Brown out, it was a golden opportunity for a guy like Richardson to step up. While Dennis Schroder — who is typically Udoka’s first option off the bench when the team is at full strength — received the starting nod in place of Jaylen.
Schroder finished with 20 points, 4 assists and will continue spot-starting in lieu of Brown for the foreseeable future.
“Yeah, we’re going to keep him there, Udoka said of Schroder after morning shootaround, Wednesday. “He’s done a great job with whoever’s been out, multiple guys, this year, so far, and he just kind of plugs the gap. He does a lot of things. Another guy who can initiate, score as well. And, it kind of solidifies our younger guys on the bench. We still got J-Rich (Josh Richardson), some vets out there.
“But, it’s an opportunity for Payton (Pritchard), Aaron (Nesmith), Romeo (Langford), and Grant (Williams), and those guys.”
Langford scored two threes to finish with six points but made his presence felt on the defensive end when he strung together defensive stops. And despite committing a whopping eight turnovers, Schroder’s offense, along with Richardson’s production off the bench, should serve as a crutch for the Jaylen Brown-less Celtics.
“We like to keep them in that spot and we love what J-Rich is doing off the bench,” Udoka added. “He just adds some pop to the start of the game and pushes the pace and the tempo — which we don’t always have to start the game. Like I said, against Miami and Orlando, our young guys came and did a good job. And, we’re looking forward to seeing them continue to grow and help us out while Jaylen is out.”