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Ainge optimistic with Baynes and Hayward injuries, Celtics’ playoff chances

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The Celtics could be getting two key members of the second unit back very soon.

NBA: Boston Celtics at Indiana Pacers Trevor Ruszkowski-USA TODAY Sports

On his weekly visit with 98.5’s The Sports Hub’s Toucher & Rich, President of Basketball Operations Danny Ainge provided an optimistic update on the injured Gordon Hayward and Aron Baynes:

Hayward has virtually missed the last three games after colliding with the HawksJohn Collins last Saturday afternoon. He continues to progress through the NBA’s concussion protocol and a return Saturday or Sunday would mark a week’s absence.

The usually pragmatic Ainge offered a more rosy outlook on Baynes. After landing awkwardly on Marcus Smart’s foot in the second quarter of last night’s loss in Philadelphia, the Celtics big man was diagnosed with a Grade 2 left ankle sprain. Sprains of that magnitude are usually given a 2-4 week recovery timetable. With twenty-three days until the start of the playoffs, Baynes could return by the first round, so Ainge calling him more “day-to-day” is a pleasant surprise. Ainge called Baynes “a big time energy guy, a team-oriented guy. He sacrifices his body, he takes charges. He’s a big help to our defense.”

For Danny, these final three weeks of the regular season are all about getting healthy and being more consistent. As much as Boston has underperformed this year, Ainge remains positive. “It’s not as gloomy and doomy to me. I see a lot of really good things happening and Gordon was one of those things as he was starting to come back. His presence makes a difference. Baynes has been out a lot this year. His presence makes a difference,” Ainge said. “Statistically, in a lot of ways, we’re better than we were in our 53 and 55-win seasons of the last couple of years and I believe that we are. Time will tell. I’m excited for the playoffs.”

“The biggest challenge this year has been consistency. We have inconsistencies throughout each game and inconsistencies throughout the season. I’d like to see us figure out a way to stop the long runs. We’ve lost a 25-point lead. We’ve lost a 28-point lead. I just feel like we play so well and then the other team goes on a run and we’re not able to stop the run shorter.”

Ainge also addressed Marcus Smart’s shove on Joel Embiid and his subsequent ejection, saying, “we like his fire and passion, but we need him. I wish we had had Marcus down the stretch. Our defense was not good in the last few minutes. We had a lack of communication and bad defensive execution and it cost us the game and our two toughest guys are sitting on the bench.”