Celtics’ Injury Woes Could Carry Into Play-In Tournament

Marcus Smart Jaylen Brown

Getty Jaylen Brown and Marcus Smart of the Boston Celtics look on during a game against the Philadelphia 76ers.

The Boston Celtics‘ 2020-21 regular-season slate limped to its underwhelming conclusion on Sunday, with the Beantowners dropping their finale to the New York Knicks at MSG, 96-92. With the loss, the Celtics ended the campaign with a 36-36 record and the No. 7 seed heading into the Eastern Conference play-in tournament.

Now, a bout with Russell Westbrook, Bradley Beal and the No. 8 Washington Wizards is officially set for Tuesday, May 18 at 9 p.m. ET. If the Celtics win, they’ll enter playoff action as the seventh seed and square off against the No. 2 Brooklyn Nets.

A loss, meanwhile, would see them fighting for a playoff berth with the winner of the Indiana Pacers/Charlotte Hornets affair, which will be determined earlier in the night. That game would be contested on Thursday, May 20.

It’s an incredible turn of events for the Celtics, who finished just two wins short of advancing to the NBA Finals last season. However, given the club’s offseason personnel losses, as well as the rash of injuries it experienced throughout ’20-21, the end result of the regular season was not entirely surprising for Boston.

And that injury bug continues to bite, leaving some level of doubt about who exactly will be available for the play-in tournament.

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Injuries Abound Ahead of Play-In

With little to play for in their final game against the Knicks, Celtics coach Brad Stevens elected to sit a number of key players. Jayson Tatum, Marcus Smart, Kemba Walker, Evan Fournier, Tristan Thompson and Rob Williams were all scratched from the lineup sheet.

“Jayson and Evan are out. Always take a layup if you can get a layup,” Stevens said, via Boston.com, in reference to the lack of consequences for losing the game.

Jaylen Brown was also out as he begins his lengthy recovery from wrist surgery.

Although some of those players are relatively healthy and should return, Stevens also indicated on Sunday that multiple players could remain on the shelf for the Wizards game and beyond.

“We’ll find out more when we hit the practice court tomorrow on those guys and go from there,” Stevens said. “I think we’ve got some potential availability amongst that group, but also some potential misses amongst that group.”

Williams may be the biggest question mark — the 23-year-old big man has been contending with turf toe and missed the Celtics’ last four games (and 12 of the last 17, overall).

Youngsters Take Advantage of Extra Time

With so many rotational players held out of the Knicks game, a number of the Celtics’ youngsters and back-end depth players received additional court time. For some, it served as a prime opportunity to show what they can do.

2019 lottery pick Romeo Langford, who has struggled to stay on the court due to injuries and COVID-19, started at the two spot for Stevens and put up 14 points and four rebounds in 34 minutes of play. He made five of 11 shots from the field.

Second-year point-man Tremont Waters was also potent off the bench, scoring 17 points and knocking down three three-point shots. He also added five boards and five assists. As a result, the Cs outscored New York by 20 points when he was on the floor.

Finally, Jabari Parker — the former No. 2 overall pick whose attempt to revive his career in Boston has left something to be desired — scored a team-high 18 points and grabbed seven rebounds.

His 27 minutes of play represented the most significant game action he had seen since August of 2020 (with the Sacramento Kings in the Orlando bubble).

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