Pregame Post-Ups: Shorthanded C’s Face Biggest Test in Toronto

Wednesday, April 4 - Celtics at Raptors

Pregame – Shorthanded C’s Face Biggest Test in Toronto

TORONTO – Injury-plagued NBA teams often preach a next-man-up mentality, asking role players to significantly increase their respective responsibilities while their banged-up teammates recover from whatever injury they’ve suffered.

It’s an admirable philosophy, but rarely do teams experience success through it.

The Boston Celtics, however, have been an exception during recent weeks. They’ve had multiple inexperienced players step in for injured rotation players, and the team has barely skipped a beat in the process.

But how?

Brad Stevens explained ahead of Wednesday’s matchup against the Toronto Raptors that it’s because he and his coaching staff have been able to figure out each player’s strongpoints and have game-planned accordingly so that every participant can chip in and contribute in one way or another.

“The expectation is that we have 15 guys who are NBA players on NBA contracts, and they all bring a great strength to the table,” Stevens said ahead of tip-off at Air Canada Centre. “They’re not all the same, but if they play to those strengths, if they play hard and play together, then we’ll have a chance.”

The Celtics have won six of their last seven games without Gordon Hayward, Kyrie Irving, Marcus Smart and Daniel Theis. Other players who have missed time during that span have been Jaylen Brown, Al Horford, Shane Larkin, Marcus Morris and Terry Rozier.

In the meantime, inexperienced role players such as Kadeem Allen, Abdel Nader, Semi Ojeleye and Guerschon Yabusele have all stepped in to contribute in their own unique ways. They’ve been able to do so because of their collective mentality to play to their strengths and not try to do too much.

“You have to have guys who are unselfish,” said Stevens. “The hard part is when you play a lot, then guys come back and now you’re not playing anymore, just being able to stay the course and keep a positive attitude about it and knowing everybody gets their chance.”

Some of the aforementioned players will likely get another chance to prove themselves Wednesday night in Toronto. The C’s will be without Larkin (illness) again and possibly Rozier (ankle), as well, when they take on the first-place Raptors.

Beating the team with the East’s top home record will probably be the biggest challenge these shorthanded Celtics have faced of late, but if they’re able to maintain their relentless, next-man-up approach by playing to their respective individual strengths, then there’s no reason to count them out.

- Taylor Snow

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