The Celtics constants this season have been Isaiah Thomas and Avery Bradley. Both have played every game and largely been productive. That list is down to just Bradley, with Thomas missing at least the Orlando game with a groin injury. Thomas already flew back to Boston for treatment.
Where does this leave the Celtics rotation-wise? While nothing has been made official, Marcus Smart was spotted wearing a starter’s jersey at shoot-around and he’s the likely IT replacement. But the fallout goes much further than that one lineup change.
Smart has been functioning as the primary backup wing behind both Bradley and Jae Crowder. If he’s starting at the PG spot, it is probably too much for him to ask to fill two backup spots as well. This puts more pressure on Jaylen Brown to step up behind Crowder. Brad Stevens has also experimented with some bigger lineups where Brown has played at the 2 and we could see more of that tonight.
Also, without Smart logging the backup SG minutes, it could mean that Gerald Green or James Young come out of mothballs tonight. Neither has played much recently, but both could give Boston and offensive boost without Thomas.
Without Thomas, Boston will need a good game from Terry Rozier. He’s going to see a lot of Elfrid Payton when reserve units go head to head and Payton is coming off a huge game against Washington. Payton scored a career high and was aggressive all game. If Rozier falters or gets into foul trouble, the Celtics did recall Demetrius Jackson from Maine to provide extra depth.
Finally, the loss of a point guard wouldn’t normally impact the front court rotation, but tonight it could. Boston has generally rolled with Al Horford and Amir Johnson when everyone is fully healthy, but that was tweaked last time out with Jonas Jerebko drawing the start. Brad Stevens says this is a once and a while thing based on matchups:
Tonight could be a case where the situation calls for Jerebko to start again, or even Kelly Olynyk. The Celtics are missing their top offensive weapon and could use the extra shooting in the opening lineup. Orlando is big with Serge Ibaka and Bismack Biyombo, but Jerebko or Olynyk can certainly hold their own against those two defensively.
It might be one injury, and hopefully for only one game, but Isaiah Thomas being out has far reaching implications for the Celtics. It should go without saying that everyone will need to step up their game offensively. With the team just starting to gel, this injury couldn’t have come at a worse time. If this stretches out beyond a game or two, Brad Stevens will have a challenge in front of him figuring out a rotation that can generate enough offense on a nightly basis.