|Brad Stevens on playing without Jae Crowder in loss: ‘Our worst fears were realized’||03.15.16 at 11:34 pm ET|
The Celtics hung tough for the first three quarters Tuesday night in Indianapolis. Then it appeared not having their most versatile player finally caught up with them.
That’s the way Brad Stevens saw it as the Celtics lost their first game this season without Jae Crowder. The Celtics actually led 77-76 with just over eight minutes left. But they couldn’t make a shot when it counted and they had no answer for Paul George and Jordan Hill off the bench in a 103-98 loss to the Pacers at Bankers Life Fieldhouse.
Without Crowder, the Celtics shot under 40 percent for a second straight game (36-for-94) 38.3 percent. They were again ice cold from 3-point range, 8-for-32 (25 percent). With no Crowder, the Celtics struggled to find an offensive rhythm. They had a 20-13 lead early, fell behind 43-33, and made a run late in the first half. But the consistency just wasn’t there without Crowder.
“First and foremost, I think this is a hard game to win, no matter who’s on your team,” Stevens told reporters afterward. “This is a good team. They’re playing really well. Minus the Atlanta loss [Sunday], they’ve had a bunch of games in a row where they’ve really played well before that. I’m not that discouraged about it.
“What I am discouraged by is I think we could play with better purpose and give ourselves a better chance late. You’re going to give up points because of size at times, or height. But I think we can get a little bit better playing the way we play with the guys we play.”
Evan Turner scored just six points on seven shots in 27 minutes off the bench. Jonas Jerebko had a season-high 17 points off the bench. But the Celtics got just nine points from Tyler Zeller, Coty Clarke and Terry Rozier.
“Obviously, we had those moments, that stretch where we couldn’t score in the first half, got down ten,” Stevens said. “But then I thought we were playing great all the way up until the end of the third quarter, when we were still playing pretty well.”
The Pacers did their best to give the short-handed Celtics a shot. But on this night in Indianapolis, the Celtics couldn’t convert.
Paul George scored 25 and Monta Ellis added 14 as the Pacers held on for a 103-98 win over the Celtics on Tuesday night at Bankers Life Fieldhouse.
The Celtics (39-28), who lost their second straight, were playing their first game of the season without Jae Crowder (high ankle sprain) and their 12th straight without Kelly Olynyk (shoulder). The Celtics lost consecutive games for the first time since losing at Dallas and at Toronto on Jan. 18 and 20.
The Celtics were led by Isaiah Thomas with 21 points while Jared Sullinger had another double-double, with 15 points and 11 rebounds.
Coach Brad Stevens went with a three-guard look in his first game this season without the injured Crowder in the starting lineup. Marcus Smart got the call, along with Avery Bradley and Isaiah Thomas. Amir Johnson and Jared Sullinger were the only big men in the game.
Thanks to an early steal from Smart, the Celtics showed energy with the small lineup, shooting out to a 20-13 lead. But the Pacers, behind Paul George, scored the final seven points of the quarter to forge a 20-20 tie after 12 minutes.
The Pacers used a 23-13 run to open a 43-33 lead before the Celtics closed it to four at the break on a 6-0 run before the break. The Celtics stayed in the game thanks to 10 Indiana turnovers.
|Jordan Mickey recalled in time for Celtics’ trip to Indiana||03.14.16 at 6:01 pm ET|
Before taking off for their trip to Indianapolis and a Tuesday meeting with the Pacers, the Celtics recalled forward Jordan Mickey from the Maine Red Claws of the D-League.
The move is likely just depth at the 3/4 position as the Celtics cope with the loss of Jae Crowder for at least two weeks with a high ankle sprain to his right foot.
Mickey has turned into a shot-blocking phenom, blocking four shots (three in the first quarter) against Grand Rapids on Sunday in the Red Claws’ 129-123 victory.
Mickey also tallied a double-double with a team-high 28 points, 11 rebounds, one assist and a steal in 32 minutes of action. He has played in 23 games for Maine this season and is averaging 17.4 points, 10.3 rebounds, 1.3 assists and 4.4 blocks per game in that span.
Mickey blocked three shots in a span of five seconds last Wednesday in a win over Memphis at TD Garden.
Coach Brad Stevens said the team would likely consider a number of options to replace Crowder’s minutes, most likely involving Evan Turner and James Young.
|With Jae Crowder out, James Young might finally be ‘shooting’ his way to playing time||at 10:01 am ET|
WALTHAM — The time may finally be right for James Young to show what he’s got.
The second-year forward out of Kentucky, drafted in the first round of the 2014 NBA draft by the Celtics (17th overall), is one of the leading candidates to fill in while Jae Crowder heals from a high ankle sprain suffered last Friday against the Rockets.
Young is still only 20 years old but already it feels like he’s been around the block for the Celtics. In his rookie season, he was assigned to the Maine Red Claws 11 times, averaging 20.7 points, 5.2 rebounds, 2.0 assists and 1.4 steals in 19 games. But it’s the shooting Young has been working to improve. At Kentucky, he shot 40.7 percent from the field and 34.9 percent from 3-point range. In five summer league games this past year, he averaged 9.4 points and 3.4 rebounds in five games but shot just 27.1 percent from the field and 22.7 percent from three-point range.
This year, the shuttle back and forth has continued, with nine more assignments, including six in this calendar year alone. This year in 10 games for Maine, he’s averaged 14.2 points and 5.7 rebounds. He’s only shooting 36.6 percent but it’s his 6-foot-6 athleticism that could come in handy as the Celtics look for someone to help fill the minutes of the injury Crowder.
“He shot the heck out of it,” Brad Stevens said after practice on Sunday. “One thing James has done is gotten good game reps in, because he’s also played in Maine. He had a good practice [Sunday].”
Young has averaged just 2.4 points and 9.1 minutes in 55 career games for the Celtics. Now, he may get a chance to actually add significantly to those totals.
Rated a five-star recruit by ESPN.com, Young was listed as the No. 3 small forward and the No. 8 player in the nation in 2013 at Kentucky. He was a starter on the Wildcats team that lost to UConn in the 2014 NCAA title game. He left after that season and missed Kentucky’s run at an undefeated season that ended with a national semifinal loss to Wisconsin last year.
|How will Celtics go about replacing Jae Crowder: Evan Turner and a bench that’s been ‘on ice’||03.13.16 at 7:06 pm ET|
WALTHAM — Evan Turner thought about the question for a moment and then uttered a mild expletive before laughing.
With Jae Crowder out for at least two weeks, could Turner be the man Brad Stevens turns to when looking for players to lock up the likes of Paul George, Kevin Durant and DeMar DeRozan?
“Oh, [crap]. I didn’t even think about that,” Turner said after practice Sunday. “Wow. The good thing is, and those guys are great players, but the people I tend to struggle with small forwards-wise are, like, the freaks. I’m not saying they’re not freaks, but Carmelo [Anthony], he’s tough in the paint.
“Joe Johnson is tough in the post. Things like that. Durant and Paul, they’re shotmakers and you just really have to get your work done early, and contest their shots, and try to make it difficult for them. And that’s it.”
Turner knows what the Celtics are missing in a player like Crowder, who has started all 66 games for the Celtics this season.
“That’s definitely tough. In general, Jae’s playing so great,” Turner said. “He plays the bulk of the minutes for us, and the defensively and versatility that we have with him on the floor, it’s definitely tough. So the biggest thing is just getting him healthy. We’ve got a lot of capable guys, guys that have stayed ready throughout this process. So they’ll have an opportunity to play.”
Even with Jared Sullinger battling a skin infection last week, the Celtics have maintained the same line up for the last 22 games and 27 of the last 28 games.
“We’ll figure it out as we go. It’ll be all good,” Turner said.
It won’t all be on Turner’s shoulders. Jonas Jerebko and second-year forward James Young will also likely get their chances when the Celtics stick with a traditional look on the court, that is to say two guards, two forwards and a center. Turner is confident that the bench will be ready. Turner has started four games this season but none since Jan. 7. Jerebko hasn’t started at all this season. And Kelly Olynyk, who may be ready to go Tuesday, hasn’t started since Jan. 22.
“I think they’ll probably be ready,” Turner said. “They’ve been on ice. JY has been on ice for like two years. Terry had a great game the other night. RJ’s definitely capable. So I think in the NBA at the end of the day it’s just playing basketball. And I think they’ll be fine. It looked like they had a great day of practice today and it will be great for them.”
|An improving Kelly Olynyk ‘striving for’ Tuesday return||at 3:48 pm ET|
WALTHAM — After missing the last 11 games with a partially separated right shoulder, Kelly Olynyk seemed a bit more optimistic Sunday that he could return Tuesday against Indiana.
“It’s feeling better. It’s loosening up,” said Olynyk, who suffered the injury in the first half of the Feb. 10 game against the Clippers. “The muscle is getting stronger each day from [strength and conditioning trainer Bryan Doo] and that’s really what it comes down to, if it’s strong enough to rebound and take a hit and help shoot the ball.”
Olynyk suggested that a Tuesday return, after a week of working to loosen up the shoulder in practice, is now realistic.
“That’s what we’re striving for,” he said. “It’ll still be a game-time kind of thing. That’s what we’re looking at and trying to do.”
“You have to have to confidence and you have to know your shoulder’s gonna be strong enough to do the things you need to do. That’s what it comes down to. If you’re not then you’re not helping the team. You’re hindering the team and you’re putting the team at a disadvantage, and that’s not what you want to do.”
That would be a sight for sore eyes to Brad Stevens, who will be without his best versatile defender in Jae Crowder, out at least two weeks with a high ankle sprain.
“He went through the whole practice and we did quite a bit of up and down, quite a bit of scrimmage, quite a bit of live action. So he’ll be dependent on how he feels, and I’m sure he’ll get with our trainers [Sunday night and Monday], and come up with that plan. But it’s good that there’s some optimism there. Certainly it’d be good to have him back.”
“They’re gonna need somebody,” Olynyk said. “They’re gonna need a body. Jae’s a big void to fill. He’s been playing great for us the whole year at both ends of the floor, scoring, rebounding, defending. He’s a tough person to fill by a single person so we’re gonna need a lot of guys to step up in his absence.
How did he look in practice Sunday?
“Solid. I mean, I thought he was good,” Stevens said. “One of the reasons why we played a little bit was so that he could get up and down and kind of get the rust off a little bit.”
“I went through a full practice, tried to do everything, as many reps as I could to just get back in the flow of things. I just tried to test it as much as I could,” Olynyk added. “It’s been good. There hasn’t been as much of a dip. It’s staying pretty strong. It’s staying pretty, away from the soreness. It’s been good throughout that so hopefully it can stay that way and there’s nothing that happens.”
WALTHAM — The “positive vibes” Brad Stevens had for the prognosis on Jae Crowder’s right ankle took a turn for the worse late Friday and an MRI Saturday revealed a more serious situation for the Celtics.
The most versatile player and defender on the team suffered a high ankle sprain and will be out of action for at least two weeks.
“After I talked to you guys, he went back in and saw the doctor, [he] had developed a little bit of swelling,” Stevens said after Sunday’s practice. “[Crowder] has a high ankle sprain. He’s going to be out a couple of weeks minimum.”
Crowder, who was taking treatment Sunday instead of practicing, is averaging 14.4 points this season for the Celtics while usually defending the best scorer on the opposing team.
“He’s one of our most versatile players certainly in his ability to guard. I think that a lot of perimeter players have perimeter defensive versatility, but there aren’t a ton of guys that can guard 4’s for long stretches or sometimes 5’s for long stretches, and Jae can do all that. So that’s one of the things that’s going to be quite a balancing act without him, and we’re going to have to have guys step up and play. We’ll probably end up playing a little more traditional because of that, and we’ll see.”
The timing of the injury to Crowder couldn’t be much worse. Starting on Tuesday, the Celtics have a string of three games in four days against Indiana, Oklahoma City and Toronto, with their best all-around defender unavailable against the likes of Paul George, Kevin Durant and DeMar DeRozan.
“I think it’s a heck of a challenge when you look at our week ahead, right, with George, Durant and DeRozan, bang, bang, bang. But that’s this league,” Stevens said. “That’s why long, athletic, versatile guys are in such demand in this league. Again, we may be a little bit smaller at times at the three and we may be bigger than we’ve been at times at the four. We’ll see how it all plays itself out and pans out. We’ve got a lot of good players. It’s a great opportunity for them and it’s a great opportunity for some of our younger players maybe to take a more pivotal role than they have so far.”
Crowder is the only player to have started all 66 games this season for the Celtics. That string comes to an end Tuesday. Stevens said he hasn’t made up his mind who takes his place.
“Nah, we’ll decide that on Tuesday morning after another 36 hours of thinking about it,” Stevens said.
Could Crowder be back for the playoffs?
“Hey, we’ve got to qualify for those. The same old adage still applies with us: We’re not that far from out of it. So, we have to play well. We have a heck of a stretch coming [up]. He’ll be back as soon as he can.”
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