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Celtics to hobble into Toronto missing Jaylen Brown, Jayson Tatum (knees) and other key team members

It’s been a long while since the injury report was this lengthy.

Minnesota Timberwolves v Boston Celtics Photo by Kathryn Riley/ Getty Images

The Boston Celtics travel to take on the Toronto Raptors tonight while missing four out of five starters just after notching first place in the Eastern Conference standings.

Jaylen Brown and Jayson Tatum almost didn’t play yesterday against the Minnesota Timberwolves. They did, and it turned into a blowout win that had some sad consequences with the news of Robert Williams’ meniscus tear. For the Jays, neither injury is expected to be long-term, and sitting out the second night of a road back-to-back is just being wisely cautious. While earning the team’s seventh straight win tonight would be extremely helpful toward both clinching a playoff spot and confirming a tight hold on the No. 1 seed, good health is even more important.

Jayson Tatum noted after last night’s game that his right patella tendinopathy might be a factor of his overtime work of essentially playing three straight years of basketball without a significant break. Between the Bubble, the Olympics and some deep playoff runs, he’s put a lot of mileage on his knees. Thankfully, he and Brown were both healthy enough to play yesterday, and both played limited minutes. They’re not expected to miss significant time.

Al Horford remains out for personal reasons, but giving him this rest isn’t a bad idea regardless because of how important he is to the team with Williams’ injury absence. Horford is a key cog in the NBA’s No. 1 defense, so the Celtics won’t be able to survive defensively if he’s not in tip-top shape while Williams remains sidelined.

Grant Williams and Daniel Theis (thank Brad for such a great deadline trade) both become increasingly important, and hopefully the scheme Ime Udoka has implemented continues to work even with fewer of his regular personnel available. Ideally, the Celtics just downgrade from annihilating opponents to simply just beating them. Tonight will be the first test. Expect players like Aaron Nesmith, Nik Stauskas, newly signed Juwan Morgan, Luke Kornet and Sam Hauser to join Payton Pritchard in making the most of recent opportunities.

While the injury news isn’t fantastic, at least it gives us wholesome content like this from Two-Way player Matt Ryan (not the football one):

The Celtics take on the surging Raptors tonight to defend their newly earned status as the top of the Eastern Conference tonight at 7:30 p.m. EST on NBC Sports Boston/League Pass.