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Jae Crowder injury blessing in disguise? 03.17.16 at 1:59 am ET
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Jae Crowder

Jae Crowder

Jae Crowder has only missed the last two games due to a high ankle sprain, but his value to the Celtics has never been more clear than it is right now.

The main causes of back-to-back losses to the Thunder and Pacers has been a combined 53 points from the opposing starting small forwards — Kevin Durant and Paul George. Toss in Friday night’s loss against perimeter scoring stud James Harden’s Rockets (the game Crowder went down) and it’s pretty evident that the C’s desperately miss Crowder’s services.

Crowder has been on an interesting NBA journey of late. An afterthought in the Rajon Rondo trade with Dallas, the Marquette product impressed during his four-month stint in Boston last season. So much so that Danny Ainge inked him to a five-year $35 million deal — a hefty commitment to someone who hadn’t been productive for all that long.

Fast-forward less than a year and the deal appears to be another genius move by Ainge, as Crowder is widely considered one of the best contracts in the NBA. Put him on the open market this offseason and he’s easily worth double what Ainge scooped him up for.

After a season of praise for the rising star, and deservingly so, Wednesday’s blowout loss to the Thunder offered the perfect excuse for Crowder’s coach and teammates to deflect admitting just how much they’re really missing him.

“Hey, I think Jae’s really, really good,” Brad Stevens said following the 130-109 defeat. “But I think we would’ve needed our whole team to play better tonight. Obviously we missed Jae, we love having Jae, we want him to be healthy and back. But we have to play well without him. That’s the bottom line. There should be no excuses.”

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Isaiah Thomas says Celtics ‘punked’ by Thunder, ‘soft as tissue’ in embarrassing loss 03.16.16 at 11:58 pm ET
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Isaiah Thomas was embarrassed.

Even though he scored a game-high 29 points and made 11-of-19 shots from the floor, he was embarrassed by his team’s 130-109 loss to the Thunder at TD Garden before a national TV audience.

The Celtics gave up 42 points in the third quarter, the most points they’ve surrendered in any 12-minute period this season. The 130 points were the most they’ve allowed in regulation this season and the most any Celtics team has allowed in regulation since 2004. 

Kelly Olynyk’s returned from a 12-game absence due to a shoulder injury didn’t overcome the loss of Jae Crowder (ankle) for a second straight game. Not even close. 

At one point of the third quarter, it got so bad, the Celtics trailed by 30.

“They punked us. We played soft as tissue,” Thomas lamented. “That third quarter, they took advantage of every little thing they could have. With a good team like that, you can’t have that happen. So, whoever is playing, whether Jae’s out, Kelly’s back, they punked us. That was basically what it was. They were the tougher team, no question.”

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Read More: Boston Celtics, Isaiah Thomas, Jae Crowder, Kevin Durant
Jordan Mickey recalled in time for Celtics’ trip to Indiana 03.14.16 at 6:01 pm ET
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Jordan Mickey

Jordan Mickey

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. 

Read More: Boston Celtics, Indiana Pacers, Jae Crowder, James Young
With Jae Crowder out, James Young might finally be ‘shooting’ his way to playing time at 10:01 am ET
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Celtics forward James Young defends Timberwolves guard Andrew Wiggins (22) in a December game at TD Garden. (Bob DeChiara/USA Today Sports)

Celtics forward James Young defends Timberwolves guard Andrew Wiggins in a December game at TD Garden. (Bob DeChiara/USA Today Sports)

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. 

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Read More: Boston Celtics, Jae Crowder, James Young, Jordan Mickey
An improving Kelly Olynyk ‘striving for’ Tuesday return 03.13.16 at 3:48 pm ET
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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.”

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Jae Crowder (high ankle sprain) out ‘a couple weeks, minimum’ at 3:32 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. (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)

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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Brad Stevens has ‘positive vibes’ about Jae Crowder and his high ankle sprain, MRI Saturday 03.11.16 at 11:19 pm ET
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The Celtics and coach Brad Stevens might be holding their breath a bit on Saturday. 

An MRI has been scheduled for forward Jae Crowder, who suffered a high sprain of his right ankle in the third quarter of Friday’s 102-98 loss to the Rockets at TD Garden. 

Crowder was driving to the basket for a layup and came down awkwardly under the basket. The injury happened with 9:08 left in the third quarter. He fell to the floor and was slow to get to his feet. He limped down court and initially stayed in the game before coming out for Evan Turner a minute later. He did not return. 

“I was on a fast break, and I came down in an awkward way, and I got up and I didn’t feel good,” Crowder said. “Come to find out I just sprained it.  High ankle sprain.”

It may not have felt good but the prognosis is promising, according to Celtics coach Brad Stevens. 

“So Jae sprained his right ankle, twisted it in. Doesn’t have much swelling right now so it looks good,” Stevens added.

“They’re going to do an MRI on it [Saturday] and figure out if there’s anything above what they think right now. But I got mostly positive vibes as I was talking to him and then also to our doctors and trainers that it won’t be a long-term thing. But we’ll see.  We’ll know more [Saturday].”

“It affects us because he’s a big part of this team,” added Isaiah Thomas. “We need a guy like that out there. At the end of the day, when something like that happens, someone else has to step up, fill his shoes and step up, and we just fell short.”

Read More: Boston Celtics, Brad Stevens, Houston Rockets, Jae Crowder
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