WASHINGTON, D.C. - Boston’s injury report is as long as its active list for the final game of its regular season, set to be played at 7 p.m. tonight at Capital One Arena.
That fact, however, should not lead to anyone overlooking the Celtics during their season finale tonight against the Wizards. There’s evidence to support such a statement.
The following list of players will be inactive for tonight’s game: Aron Baynes, Gordon Hayward, Al Horford, Kyrie Irving, Marcus Morris, Marcus Smart and Jayson Tatum. Just one year ago, on the final day of the regular season, Boston entered its season finale against the Nets in nearly the exact same scenario, as six healthy Celtics did not play against Brooklyn, including all five starters. Rather than falling to Brooklyn, though, as many pundits expected, the Celtics won going away, 110-97.
Brad Stevens did not view that performance as insignificant. In fact, he viewed it from the opposite perspective.
“We were on a three-game losing streak going into that game, and weren’t feeling as hot about ourselves,” Stevens recalled at Tuesday morning’s shootaround at Georgetown University. “And everybody talks about, ‘How are you going to feel going into the Playoffs?’ and all of that stuff. We weren’t playing great, but that game kinda got our spirits in the right place, even though it wasn’t our guys who were going to play the most playing.”
A handful of Celtics played strong basketball during that game, including Baynes, Semi Ojeleye and Shane Larkin. All three of those players went on to play significant roles in Boston’s push to Game 7 of the Eastern Conference Finals. The C’s who will be available tonight will be looking to build similar momentum.
Two players who will be important to Boston’s playoff push, Jaylen Brown and Terry Rozier, will play tonight. They aren’t overlooking the opportunity that stands before them in the nation’s capital.
Brown, who missed three of Boston’s last four games with lower back spasms, believes this game will set him back on the right track before the postseason arrives.
“Just to get a rhythm and stuff like that and get back to guarding and doing everything that you’re supposed to do to just get ready for the Playoffs, really,” he said.
Rozier, meanwhile, said that he and his comrades are looking forward to the opportunity to play a more centralized role, as he did during last season’s playoff run.
“I know a lot of guys that’s playing tonight are looking forward to it,” he said. “I’m glad to be out there with them. At the end of the day, it’s the last game of the season, but it’s something that we all love to do, so we’re all going out there to have fun, and we’re all looking to get ‘em (shots) up.”
Outside of Rozier and Brown, the rest of the active Celtics list will be comprised of Ojeleye, Robert Williams, Brad Wanamaker, Guerschon Yabusele, R.J. Hunter, P.J. Dozier and today’s signee, Jonathan Gibson. During last year’s regular-season finale, Yabusele totaled 16 points and five rebounds, while Gibson came off of Boston’s bench to score 18 points on 8-for-13 shooting.
Those players didn’t disappoint last season during what many on the outside called a “meaningless” game for Boston. It wasn’t a meaningless game to the players, and neither is tonight. That’s why no one should count the Celtics out.
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