C’s Taking Cautious Approach with Brown, Morris Injuries as Playoffs Near

INDIANAPOLIS – Jaylen Brown was hopeful to return to action Friday night in Indianapolis after missing two games due to back spasms. Shortly after morning shootaround at Bankers Life Fieldhouse, however, the Celtics ruled him out just to be safe.

Before the decision was made, Brown noted how badly he wanted to play in this game considering the implications it could have on playoff seeding and home-court advantage for the first round. Ultimately, though, he understands the big picture of being at full health entering the postseason.

“That’s what everybody on my part is considering,” said Brown, who injured his back while bending over to pick up a basketball Monday morning at the team’s training facility in Brighton. “They don’t want it to be a problem coming into the Playoffs. So, to risk playing now—of course it’s a must-win game, but if I risk injuring it further it could possibly lead into the playoffs, and that’s what we don’t want. So, it’s definitely about having a game plan, being smart and executing it. That’s what’s important.”

The Celtics have taken a cautionary approach with many of its key rotation players down the final stretch of the regular season, making sure that everyone is well-rested and healthy for the biggest stage of the campaign.

“I think it’s all about we want everybody to feel really good,” said Celtics coach Brad Stevens. “We’ve got an open line of communications with guys and obviously if there was anything that we thought would linger into nine days from now, then we would address that.”

The Celtics may also be without Marcus Morris for the second straight game, as he is currently dealing with some soreness in his right knee. Fortunately, Stevens believes that this should also be just a day-to-day injury.

“I think it’s one of those things that he should be good to go by next week,” the coach confidently stated, should the veteran wing sit out against Indiana.

While it’s critical that both Brown and Morris regain their health, their presences will certainly be missed Friday night. The Pacers have been one of the toughest teams in the league this season, of which the Celtics got a taste during last week’s 114-112 win at TD Garden.

“They’re super physical. That’s number one,” Stevens pointed out. “I’m sure they watched the film from last Friday night and said they should have won or could have won when you look at a couple of opportunities at the rim. They got two loose balls late that could have ended the game, and they really hurt us on the glass.

“That’s going to be the deal for us. Are we going to play and be physical enough against this team? Because we all know that really matters. So we’re going to have to be tough, very smart, able to move on to the next play, and we’re going to have to leave it all out there to have a chance to beat them.”

Boston and Indiana currently have identical 47-32 records, though the Celtics hold the head-to-head tiebreaker at 2-1, which is why they’re in fourth place at the moment. Of course, whomever is holding onto that fourth seed by the end of the regular season will be the team with home-court advantage in the first round of the Playoffs.

“At the end of the day, we’ve got to just go play basketball, whether we’re home or away,” said Brown. “We’re the 4 seed. Of course we’d like to be the 1 seed, but we’re not. So now we’ve got to come out and win games. That’s what we’re focused on. Indiana tonight is definitely a tough place to win. It’s a good testing ground for our team, how to win on the road, how to stay together, the physicality we need to play with, et cetera. It should be a fun night.”

It will also have to be a night in which Boston must dig extra deep to make up for the potential absences of two physical bodies, while playing against one of the toughest teams in the league.

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