Friday, January 17, 2020

Are injuries causing Celtics to lose their balance?

Balance has been one of the Celtics main attributes right out of the gate this season.

Jayson Tatum, Jaylen Brown and Gordon Hayward give them three wings capable of scoring 20-or-more points in a game, which also includes All-Star point guard Kemba Walker. That balance has been lost, and injuries have played a major role, especially as of late.

The Celtics have lost back-to-back games and six of their last 11 contests. Jaylen Brown was out of action Thursday night with a sprained right thumb, as Boston loss to the rival Milwaukee Bucks, 128-123. Jayson Tatum played a team-high 40 minutes - scored 17, while adding seven rebounds and three assists. But his 8-of-20 shooting on field goals, 1-of-5 accuracy on treys and 0-of-2 from the free throw line may be an indication that the knee issue that kept him out of the Celtics loss to the Pistons the night before, remains bothersome.

Gordon Hayward, who scored a team-high 25 points against Detroit, followed it up a mere 1-of-10 from the field and 1-of-9 beyond the arc at Fiserv Forum. It just may be that the pain from hand surgery persists and rears its ugly head every once in a while - or he just had an off night. The only positive note regarding the various Celtics' maladies is that the oft-injured Marcus Smart is healthy. In the loss in Milwaukee, he produced 24 points, four rebounds, two assists, two steals and one block, while shooting 5-of-10 on 3-pointers and a perfect 7-of-7 from the charity stripe.

Kemba Walker was literally all over the place, racking up a potent double-double with a team-high 40 points and 11 boards. Where would the Celtics be without this mini-dynamo? He has been a near-savior for Boston.

The warning signs are up and the postseason usually brings with it at least a few minor injuries, but the specter of mishaps causing multi-game absences is always in the background. Boston has a reliable two-or-three man bench, with Marcus Smart, Enes Kanter and possibly - Brad Wanamaker coming off the pine, but it's slowly becoming more clear that won't cut it come playoff time.

Maybe trading for a veteran guard, such as Derrick Rose and waiting to see what the buyout market produces in the way of a backup wing or big could be a solution. The Celtics have fine balance in their starting unit, but their bench is too thin for success in the postseason. There are less than three weeks before the Feb. 6 trade deadline and Danny Ainge needs to get on the phone to find a wily, playoff-seasoned vet that can fit into what Brad Stevens had constructed prior to the start of the calendar year. The balance needs to be restored and somewhat quickly.

Tom Lane

Photo used courtesy of The Associated Press

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