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Studs and Duds: Blazers spoil return of Jae Crowder, Celtics fall to 6th in East 04.01.16 at 12:52 am ET
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Celtics guard Isaiah Thomas shoots the ball in front of Portland Trail Blazers forward Al-Farouq Aminu during the first quarter at the Moda Center at the Rose Quarter. (Steve Dykes/USA Today Sports)

Celtics guard Isaiah Thomas shoots the ball in front of Trail Blazers forward Al-Farouq Aminu during the first quarter at the Moda Center at the Rose Quarter. (Steve Dykes/USA Today Sports)

Not exactly the way the Celtics wanted to head into Golden State.

Al-Farouq Aminu scored a career-high 28 points and single-handedly spoiled the return of Jae Crowder Thursday night as the Blazers outlasted the Celtics, 116-109, Thursday night at the Moda Center.

Crowder made a big impact with a double-double, scoring 13 points and hauling in 10 rebounds, in his first game back from a high ankle sprain. With 22 points, Isaiah Thomas set a new franchise record with his 14th straight game as the team’s leading scorer. It was also his 14th straight game with at least 20 points, two games shy of Paul Pierce’s streak in the 2005-06 season.

“It felt good. He showed signs of what he does,” Thomas said of Crowder afterward. “It probably will take a couple of games for him to get back to his full strength. Just glad to have him back in a routine. It just sucks we couldn’t get the win for him.” 

It was a costly loss for the Celtics (43-32) as they fell to sixth in the East, a half-game behind the Heat and Hornets.

Thanks to 50 percent shooting from the field in the first quarter, the Celtics raced out to a 12-4 lead. Portland didn’t score in the game’s first two minutes. 

The first quarter featured the first action from Crowder since suffering a high ankle sprain March 11 against the Rockets. In the opening 60 seconds, he showed no ill effects, grabbing a rebound on the first Blazers possession of the game. On the next possession, Crowder collected a steal and dished an assist on an Isaiah Thomas 3-pointer. 

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Read More: Boston Celtics, Isaiah Thomas, Jae Crowder, NBA
Jae Crowder ‘looking right’ for return vs. Trail Blazers, not likely for Friday vs. Warriors 03.31.16 at 2:22 pm ET
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Jae Crowder

Jae Crowder

The return of Jae Crowder is likely to be one-game only event tonight in Portland.

Barring any setback before the game, Celtics coach Brad Stevens said he’s hopeful Crowder to be available against the Trail Blazers at the Moda Center.

“I’m feeling pretty good. Minor soreness.” Crowder told reporters Thursday in Portland. Crowder said at the shootaround that he’s hopeful to play but hasn’t fully committed. That will come following one more test in a shootaround before the game at the Moda Center.

Asked if he’d be ready to go against Portland, Crowder replied, “It’s looking right,” adding that he would prefer the slower tempo and pace of the Blazers versus the up-tempo demands of the Warriors. 

Stevens added that Crowder would be limited to the game against the Trail Blazers if he’s physically not able to play in back-to-back games so early back from his right high ankle sprain. The Celtics are scheduled to play the 68-win Warriors on Friday night in Oakland.

Crowder practiced with the team at full speed Wednesday in Portland for the first time since injuring the ankle against the Rockets on March 11 at TD Garden. Stevens said he liked what he saw from Crowder in practice.

“He just looked like Jae,” Stevens told reporters Thursday.

He’s missed eight games and the team has posted a record of 4-4 in his absence.

Read More: Boston Celtics, Brad Stevens, Jae Crowder,
Jae Crowder says he will ‘push [right ankle] to the limit’ in effort to return Thursday 03.30.16 at 6:31 pm ET
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Celtics forward Jae Crowder drives to the hoop against Rockets guard James Harden before his injury March 11. (Mark L. Baer/USA Today Sports)

Celtics forward Jae Crowder drives to the hoop against Rockets guard James Harden before his injury March 11. (Mark L. Baer/USA Today Sports)

The Celtics may have their most versatile player back in uniform when they take on the Trail Blazers Thursday night at the Moda Center. 

Jae Crowder returned to full team practice on Wednesday at the University of Portland for the first time since suffering a high ankle sprain in the second half of their March 11 loss to the Rockets at TD Garden.
 
The team will see how he reacts Thursday and assess his availability Thursday morning. 
 
“Today I’m going to push it to the limit,” Crowder told reporters Wednesday before practice. 

“I’m hopeful that we can get back to playing the way that we were playing when we’d been all healthy earlier this year,” coach Brad Stevens told reporters before practice. 

Crowder started Boston’s first 66 games before missing the last eight with the right ankle injury. The team has played .500 ball (4-4) in those games. Crowder’s value came not just in his 15.4 points per game but consistently drawing the opposing team’s best scorer as well as providing a legitimate second scoring option behind Isaiah Thomas. In losses to teams like Oklahoma City, Toronto and the Clippers on Monday, his absence was dramatically felt.

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Read More: Boston Celtics, Brad Stevens, Jae Crowder, NBA
Jae Crowder to return to practice Wednesday 03.28.16 at 3:14 pm ET
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Jae Crowder

Jae Crowder

The next step in the return of Jae Crowder will come Wednesday in Portland. 

Brad Stevens told reporters Monday in Los Angeles that the Celtics’ versatile swingman, who suffered a high ankle sprain of his right foot on March 11 against Houston, will practice at the University of Portland the day before the scheduled Thursday game against the Trail Blazers. 

Crowder returned to shooting drills on Wednesday before the game against the Raptors but was limited to shooting in place. 

Crowder also told reporters that his hope is to return to action on Thursday but Stevens said Wednesday’s practice and Crowder’s response to it will be the guideline the team uses to determine if he’s ready to play. 

Crowder started in Boston’s first 66 games, averaging 14.4 points and 5.1 rebounds, but will miss Monday’s game at Staples Center against Paul Pierce, Doc Rivers and the Clippers, marking the eighth straight game he’s been out. The Celtics have posted a 4-3 record in his absence. 

Read More: Boston Celtics, Jae Crowder,
Jae Crowder takes some steps, Kelly Olynyk showing off some D 03.23.16 at 7:26 pm ET
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Celtics forward Jae Crowder (99) drives to the hoop against Houston Rockets guard James Harden (13) during the second half at TD Garden on Mar. 11. (Mark L. Baer/USA Today Sports)

Celtics forward Jae Crowder (99) drives to the hoop against Houston Rockets guard James Harden (13) during the second half at TD Garden. (Mark L. Baer/USA Today Sports)

Jae Crowder continues to take some small steps on his way back from the high sprain of his right ankle that forced him to miss his sixth straight game Wednesday night against the Raptors.

“He shot [Tuesday] with [assistant coach] Jamie Young for a while,” Brad Stevens said before Wednesday’s game against Toronto. “He shot pregame today but from what I’ve been told, I don’t think there’s any movement shooting. I think it’s just spot shooting so no real update. He’s going to go on our trip. I don’t want to put a timeline on him but I don’t anticipate him playing early in the trip.”

Stevens was asked if he thinks Crowder’s uncertainly might leave the Celtics a bit shorthanded on the five-game trip out West.

“I don’t think so right now. Obviously, if we have more issues, we’ll address as we move forward.” 

The Celtics sent Coty Clarke and James Young on the trip out to Texas for games Wednesday and Friday. They are expected to join the Celtics when they begin their trip in Phoenix Saturday night. 

“I expect them to, yeah. I haven’t talked to Danny [Ainge] yet. They play on their trip and then they’re going to hop over and join us after that,” Stevens said. 

One of the keys to the Celtics keeping pace without Crowder is the continued play of Kelly Olynyk. On Monday, Olynyk scored 22 points off the bench against the Magic. But his defense also made an impact on Stevens. 

“I think he’s a position player. He’s a guy that can keep people in front of him,” Stevens said. “He actually switches better than people think. He’s got pretty good feet on the perimeter and he’s good in our pick-and-roll system. Kelly’s greatest strength on the defensive end is adding to the team defense.

“He’ s a guy that’s been here three years and a guy with that kind of size and understands the game and feels good about the game. The game has slowed down for him in some ways and that can have a good impact.”

As anyone knows who watches the Celtics, shot-blocking is not Olynyk’s expertise. He has just 31 blocks in 58 games this season. 

“It’s not fair to compare him to a 7-foot shot blocker because he’s not a shot blocker,” Stevens said. “He’s a guy that has to use position, has to use his base, his feet and move and keep guys in front of him, and make the right play. He took the charge in Philly the other night with great positioning. The other day against Orlando, he had some great positioning plays. So, I think it’s a lot less about height. It’s a lot more about being in his stance and playing low and playing lower longer than the guy he’s playing against.”

Read More: Boston Celtics, Jae Crowder, Kelly Olynyk, NBA
Jonas Jerebko ‘cleared’ for return vs. Magic, Jae Crowder to travel on West Coast trip 03.21.16 at 6:43 pm ET
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Celtics forward Jonas Jerebko (8) shoots the ball against the Pacers. (Trevor Ruszkowski/USA Today Sports)

Celtics forward Jonas Jerebko (8) shoots the ball against the Pacers. (Trevor Ruszkowski/USA Today Sports)

The Celtics will get a key part of their bench back when they take on the Magic at TD Garden. 

Brad Stevens confirmed before Monday’s game that that the 6-foot-10 power forward will be available off Boston’s bench after missing the last three games with a sore Achilles that forced him to stay back in Boston and receive extensive treatment. 

The Celtics missed him in losses to the more versatile Thunder on Wednesday and the Raptors on Friday. The Celtics were able to compensate against the 61-loss 76ers on Sunday. 

“Jonas is, from everything I’ve been told, cleared to play tonight,” Stevens said. 

Jerebko is averaging just 4.4 points and 3.5 rebounds in 66 games this season but gives Stevens an important matchup tool against the longer front courts they face. 

As for Jae Crowder, the starting swingman is still undergoing treatment on the high sprain of his right ankle. He suffered the injury against the Rockets on March 11 and has missed the last four games after starting in Boston’s first 66 games. The team is sticking to the minimum prognosis of two weeks to heal enough to return to game action.

“Jae is progressing well,” Stevens said. “We think he’s about on the same timetable that I initially gave you. Obviously, he’s going to end up being two [weeks] this week. Minimum of two [weeks] but most likely that’s a very, very conservative estimate.”

“I haven’t even seen him. I just get told that he’s improved. We’ve been gone. He’s been here with our trainers so I get a daily update. I saw him today, real briefly, before he went back into his rehab. He said he’s feeling better. There’s a big difference between that and playing in a game.”

Stevens said he’s not going to get involved in trying to adjust the timetable, should Crowder push the team to rush him back to action. 

“I don’t even get into it. That’s our doctors and our trainers and our players,” Stevens said. “I think my best job is to stay away from getting in the middle of those conversations because I know he really wants to play. I know he wants to expedite that. But as a coach, I have to trust all those guys to make the right decision.”

The most encouraging news Monday was Stevens’ declaration that Crowder would be making the five-game trip out West, starting Saturday in Phoenix. 

“For sure, it’s a long trip. And it’s within that timeframe where he could play again so who knows when but certainly the plan is to take him on the trip.” 

Kelly Olynyk is another player trying to find his rhythm after suffering a right shoulder injury on Feb. 10. Olynyk missed 12 games before returning against the Pacers last Tuesday. He is still struggling to find his offensive rhythm, as indicated by his 0-for-4 performance from 3-point range (2-for-8 overall) Sunday night in Philadelphia. In three games back, Olynyk has made just five of 22 shots from the floor (22.7 percent) and just one of his 10 attempts from beyond the arc. 

“You have to ask him,” Stevens said of Olynyk’s comfort level. “I’m not sure. That would be a question for him. I think he’s looking fine. I think his shot looks good. It’s just probably feel for him to see a few go down.” 

Read More: Boston Celtics, Jae Crowder, Jonas Jerebko, Kelly Olynyk
Jonas Jerebko out 2nd straight game with Achilles injury that is ‘not a long term thing’ 03.18.16 at 8:40 pm ET
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Jonas Jerebko missed his second straight game Friday night in Toronto. (Trevor Ruszkowski/USA Today Sports)

Jonas Jerebko missed his second straight game Friday night in Toronto. (Trevor Ruszkowski/USA Today Sports)

The injury bug has picked a bad time to hit the Celtics. 

Already without Jae Crowder due to a high sprain of his right ankle, forward Jonas Jerebko didn’t even make the trip to Toronto, staying home in Boston to get treatment of a sore Achilles. 

After not playing in Boston’s 130-109 loss to Oklahoma City on Wednesday, Jerebko remaining in Boston to get treatment. Stevens told reporters in Toronto before Friday’s game that he would miss Friday’s game and Sunday’s game in Philadelphia. 

Celtics coach Brad Stevens told reporters that Jerebko was not with the team in Toronto.

“We left him at home to get treatment,” Stevens said. “It’s not a long-term thing.”

Without Crowder and Jerebko, Stevens was stripped of two of his most versatile post players, and it showed early. Luis Scola went off for 17 points as the Raptors built a 19-point first-half lead. 

Jerebko could be back in time for Monday’s game against the Magic at TD Garden. The Celtics could use him right about now. 

Read More: Boston Celtics, Brad Stevens, Jae Crowder, Jonas Jerebko
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