At one point in the fourth quarter as the Lakers rallied within one possession, the Celtics courted a unit of Shane Larkin, Marcus Smart, Terry Rozier, Semi Ojeleye and Daniel Theis out of necessity. Al Horford sat with a concussion, Gordon Hayward is still out of the fold, Kyrie Irving nursed a sore knee on the bench and Jayson Tatum was in the locker room getting treatment on his ankle.
Irving returned and helped close out the victory. Tatum did not.
Reports that Tatum was in a walking boot were scary for a Boston team that cannot afford another injury to a starter. A. Sherrod Blakely reported Thursday morning that the Celts performed an x-ray on Tatum that came back negative for a broken bone, but he will still undergo a MRI.
Danny Ainge said the x-rays taken on Jayson Tatum’s ankle after last night’s game showed no fractures or breaks. Will have MRI today.— A. Sherrod Blakely (@ASherrodblakely) November 9, 2017
Tatum left in the second quarter at the 5:43 mark during a timeout. A minute earlier he stripped Kentavious Caldwell-Pope after initially turning the ball over himself and dunked for his final points. Before the timeout he boxed out Kyle Kuzma as Pope hit a three, but did not appear to be visibly laboring at all in the minutes prior to his removal.
Making an appearance on 98.5 The Sports Hub, Danny Ainge cast some concern on the period of time he could miss but did not have certain results.
"(Tatum) just has, we're hoping, a soft tissue injury in the ankle joint,” he said. “Which sometimes can take a while. We'll have a better feel of that when we get the images back.”
All that is clear is that Tatum likely avoided an even longer potential absence a broken ankle would cause. Early in the season, and especially in his young career, the cautious approach is best.
Ankle injuries are notoriously persistent and an early return can cause setbacks. Jae Crowder returned from a high ankle sprain toward the end of the 2015-16 season and went on to shoot 40 percent or below in all six playoff games against the Hawks.
The timing is terrible for a Boston squad that is missing so many bodies already with a pair of tough games against the Hornets and Raptors this weekend, but they’ve established some room for error with their 10-2 start.
Brad Stevens said that until they’re down to four players, they have to just keep moving forward.
“He asked to be taking out,” Stevens said. “He didn’t remember a specific incident.”
We’ll update as the MRI results become available.