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Celtics will prioritize health ahead of playoffs

Ime Udoka, Al Horford, and Marcus Smart all talked about how crucial health will be after beating the Bulls and holding on to the #2 seed.

Boston Celtics v Chicago Bulls Photo by Jeff Haynes/NBAE via Getty Images

The Boston Celtics won their 50th game of the season on Wednesday night, taking down the Chicago Bulls 117-94. With how poorly the C’s started the season, winning 50 games seems like a feat of epic proportions. It’s as if they climbed Mount Everest without an oxygen mask while also dealing with a ton of outsiders telling them to trade away their best sherpas.

With just a couple of games left in the regular season and a long history of unlucky injuries preceding the playoffs, Boston’s focus is on one thin: health. The standings and seedings may not be set, but at some point, they need to just worry about themselves.

Boston takes on the Milwaukee Bucks on Thursday on the second night of a back-to-back. When asked about the possibility of resting guys, Udoka said that there was nothing set in stone, but that he would be collaborating with the medical team to come up with a plan:

We’ll talk about it. Like I said, I haven’t pre-determined anything. We’ll go through certain scenarios, but we’ll see how guys feel and talk to the medical group and come up with a plan.

Udoka was also asked whether or not he takes into account the minutes guys played against the Bulls. He said it definitely factors in, but that most guys played well below their season averages in Chicago:

Yeah, we definitely do. Most guys played under the average by quite a bit. Then Jaylen, getting right around his minutes. It’s something we factor in, obviously if it was a tightly-contested game and we played up in the high 30’s, 40’s, that would impact tomorrow. But like I said, we’ll get with the medical team and figure out what we’re doing tomorrow.

Both Jayson Tatum (30:09) and Marcus Smart (25:45) played under their season averages, but Jaylen Brown (34:40) and Al Horford (29:46) surpassed their normal minutes for the season. Daniel Theis also played a bit more than normal, logging 30:02 against the Bulls.

Horford was also asked about potentially resting some of Boston’s top players against the Bucks on Thursday. Similar to Udoka, he said that it would be a gameday decision, but also stressed the importance of staying healthy for the playoffs:

We kind of know who we are already. But at the same time, we kind of have to see how I’m feeling tomorrow and kind of go from there. The biggest thing for us is, we have to make sure that we are at our best as a team, but also health-wise, physically. You know, this past month, we’ve been playing some high intensity basketball. Really good teams. So you know, we’ll see what happens. But at the end of the day, we have to do what’s best for our group. We have to make sure that we’re in the best position come playoff time.

Horford recently got some rest on a back-to-back against the Minnesota Timberwolves and Toronto Raptors. Other than that and a few sporadic absences, Horford has been an iron man this year. The 35-year-old big man has played in, and started in, 67 games this season.

In addition, Smart was asked a similar question. And although he admitted that he’d love to play in every game if he could, he too acknowledged the importance of staying healthy ahead of the postseason:

I mean, I’m a competitor. So you know I would love to play. But I do want to be fresh going into the playoffs. So, you know, whatever decision Ime makes, we’re gonna roll with it.

Just like Horford, Smart has been pretty healthy this season. He’s played in, and started, 68 games this year, which is the most he’s appeared in since the 2018-19 season. It’s also the most games he’s started in a single season. Smart and Horford rank third and fifth on the team, respectively, in terms of games played.

As mentioned, Boston will face off against the Bucks on Thursday. The game tips off at 7:30 p.m. and will have major playoff-seeding implications.