Should spate of injuries change our expectations for Celtics?

A. Sherrod Blakely
NBC Sports Boston
<p>The Celtics have been flattened by injuries, making you wonder if they can recover health-wise and still have time to gain some semblance of good rhythm headed into the postseason. </p>

Should spate of injuries change our expectations for Celtics?

The Celtics have been flattened by injuries, making you wonder if they can recover health-wise and still have time to gain some semblance of good rhythm headed into the postseason.

BOSTON -- With so many bodies either not coming back this season or out indefinitely, Celtics coach Brad Stevens is going to have to tweak a few things with his roster. 
Should fans do the same in terms of their expectations?


When the season began, the Celts were on everyone's short list to be the team in the East to finally dethrone the Cleveland Cavaliers. Even after Gordon Hayward went down just five minutes into the season, the C's trajectory was still upward bound. 
They've had their share of setbacks since then, though they've managed to play through most of them and remain successful. But they reached their nadir this week. 
In addition to the aforementioned Hayward (dislocated left ankle), who is not expected back this season, Boston has also lost key reserve Daniel Theis (torn meniscus, left knee) for the season. In addition . . .

-- Marcus Smart has a torn tendon in his right hand and will get a second opinionto see what are his options, if any, on how to play with the injury.
--  Jaylen Brown has a concussion and has been ruled out all this week.

-- Al Horford is feverish to the point where he missed the Celtics' last game and won't play tonight against Washington.
-- Oh yeah, one more thing. Kyrie Irving has a sore left knee that's expected to keep him out multiple games -- including tonight's -- between now and the start of the playoffs next month. 
And that's not all. Jayson Tatum has some low back tightness, though he's expected to play tonight. And even Boston's end-of-the-bench guys like Shane Larkin (sore left knee) aren't immune to what has been a season-long stretch of injuries.
"I've never been in a season like this," Stevens said. "And it started right out of the gate this way with Gordon. The rest of the year, dealt with a lot of what would be small, week-to-week, or a couple of weeks type of things."
But as the calendar shrinks between the regular season and the playoffs, so does the ability to recover health-wise and still have time to have some semblance of good playing rhythm headed into the postseason. 
Marcus Morris spent the first couple of months of the season playing limited minutes or not at all due to left knee soreness. Now healthy, he can understand all too well how frustrated his teammates are at not being ready to roll health-wise at this point in the season. 
"It's definitely unfortunate," Morris said. "It's the NBA, though. There's a lot of games, a lot of wear and tear on guy's bodies. That's why you got 15 players."
And rest assured, the Celtics have every intention of using all of them. 
Guerschon Yabusele has spent most of this season with Boston's Gatorade League affiliate, the Maine Red Claws. After the Celtics' practice on Monday, Stevens said Yabusele was on a flight back to Boston to be with the team. More than likely, the 6-foot-8 forward will be on the team's active roster tonight.


The Wizards come into the game missing a key player as well, with All-Star John Wall still on the mend after arthroscopic surgery on his left knee in January.
Despite all the injuries, Boston (46-21) will likely finish with the No. 2 seed in the East, which normally brings about an expectation of at least getting to the Conference finals. 
While that certainly remains a goal, with so many late-season injuries should that remain the expectation for this group?
The Celtics have consistently said their focus this season has been getting better from one game to the next, and that improvement wasn't necessarily going to always show up in the win column. 
That approach will serve them well right now, because every indication is that this most recent rash of setbacks won't be as easy to move past as those experienced earlier this year. 
"A lot of teams are going through [injuries]," said Terry Rozier. "So, we have to collectively as a group do what we can to pick up for those guys. It's not going to be easy, but part of the NBA -- this is what it's all about -- opportunity."


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