In a close-fought battle against the Indiana Pacers on Sunday, the Boston Celtics not only suffered a 99-97 loss, but their entire season was put in jeopardy.
After playing the first half, All-Star point guard Kyrie Irving wasn’t on the court to begin the second. The same knee that has nagged him all season long caused him enough pain to sit out the rest of the game.
As a result, the second-best Eastern Conference squad will apparently be very cautious with him moving forward.
"We've [mapped out rest] pretty consistently [when Irving has been sore]. We've said if we need to rest, or the knee becomes an issue, then automatically everything stops, and we go from there. What we're really focused on now is making sure that knee feels as good as possible heading into April. I don't know what that means from the standpoint of playing this week, next week, any of that stuff,” Boston coach Brad Stevens told reporters after the game, per ESPN’s Chris Forsberg.
Although ESPN’s Adrian Wojnarowski reported that the issue is classified as tendonitis and is therefore not anything more serious, losing him will not bode well for the immediate future.
To add to the injury woes, two more players suffered injuries in that game.
Key reserve Daniel Theis tore the meniscus in his left knee when his knee buckled in the final minute of the game. He will miss the rest of the season.
"I appreciate the way that he approached every day, and he'll approach the rehab the same way," said Stevens on Monday, per NBA.com. "But you really feel for him. He was a guy that came in knowing he could play, but maybe not even expecting to have the type of season he had. And he didn't change that when we brought Greg (Monroe) in and mixed up minutes here and there. He just kept being who he is, and we're going to miss him on the court. But he'll have a full recovery and he'll be able to get back better than ever when he steps back out on the court.”
Theis averaged 5.3 points and 4.3 rebounds in 14.3 minutes over 63 games.
Further, combo guard Marcus Smart suffered a torn tendon in his right thumb. As a result, he will be out indefinitely.
Since it's an injury to his shooting hand, it remains to be seen how long he will be held out of action and what rehabilitation steps will need to be taken. Stepping up for Irving in the second half on Sunday, Smart ended up with 20 points, seven rebounds, eight assists and four steals and is averaging 10.2 points, 3.5 rebounds and 4.8 assists in 29.9 minutes per contest overall.
To add, Jaylen Brown is currently in concussion protocol following a scary fall he took last week.
Therefore, when the Washington Wizards arrive in Boston to take on the Celtics on Wednesday, expect Shane Larkin and Terry Rozier to play massive roles while the team will most likely activate Kadeem Allen and call up Jabari Bird from their G-League affiliate.
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While the Celtics have the depth to replace Theis in the frontcourt, losing so many backcourt players at once could cause some major problems in the short-term for Boston. But, as always, the historic franchise has their sights set on an NBA championship. Therefore, making sure Irving, Smart and Brown are ready to go for the playoffs is what matters most.