At this point of the season, the Boston Celtics are used to playing without their full compliment of players as the injury report resembles more of a CVS receipt with how long it has been.
The C’s were down three starters against the Sacramento Kings Monday night — Gordon Hayward (left hand fracture), Kemba Walker (neck sprain) and Daniel Theis (illness) were all ruled out prior to the contest — but that just opened the door for role players to emerge and play a factor in Boston’s 103-102 victory.
G-League call-up Tremont Waters made the biggest splash with his high-energy minutes off the bench in his NBA debut, but the rookie guard was far from the only one making a difference with the Celtics shorthanded.
“With the circumstances, with Kemba (Walker) out and Daniel Theis not here, a lot of guys stepped up,” said Marcus Smart. “Tremont came for the G-League and he came in and gave us some valuable minutes. Carsen (Edwards), Semi Ojeleye, those guys really stepped up and they stay ready all year. I’m excited from that point.”
In 20 minutes on the floor, Waters made his presence felt with his ability to penetrate Sacramento’s defense routinely. While the C’s came out sluggish in the first game back home at the TD Garden after a five-game west coast road trip, Waters, who tallied seven points, three assists, two rebounds and two blocks, provided a spark to help Boston close the first half on a 25-7 run.
Ojeleye, who earned the starting nod, made some strong plays, especially on the offensive end, where he scored seven points on 3-of-6 shooting and also finished as a plus-10 — the second best mark for the C’s for the game.
Edwards has shown inconsistency in his shot so far during his rookie season, but he hit two timely 3-pointers, including a trey to open up the fourth quarter.
The picture is also getting clearer on what exactly Enes Kanter will provide for a C’s team that lacks big man depth. Kanter played 25 minutes and stood out in the first half with his ability to crash the offensive boards and turn the second chance opportunties into easy buckets as the 6-foot-10 center complied 13 points and nine rebounds.
Jayson Tatum and Jaylen Brown were their usual selves, carrying the load offensively by combining for 44 points. That has become expected of the duo this season, but it’s tough to predict what the bench will provide on any given night.
And even though it looked ugly at times — without three starters that’s somewhat expected — the role players made timely contributions as the C’s just found another way to win.
“We looked limited at times, but I thought we battled and we found a way,” said Celtics coach Brad Stevens. “Everybody that played contributed in some way or another. We got a lot out of Tremont Waters and that was really good and then everybody else made enough plays.”