What fans refer to as the most exciting time of year, and others refer to it as the most frustrating time of year, is less than a week away.
Playoffs are now less than a week upon us, and a 102-94 loss against No. 13 Cleveland removed the Celtics as a contender for 6th place and gave them a spot in the play-in tournament. Boston is now looking for one more win in its final two games or a loss from Charlotte and Indiana to officially claim 7th place. With the likelihood of these three teams remaining in their current place, Boston looks to take on Charlotte at the Garden as their playoff run begins.
While having to battle through a tournament is not ideal for the Celtics, a year of injuries and COVID-19 related issues took a toll on the team. With injuries all across the board, Tatum and Walker were a pair of the team’s stars that were listed repeatedly on the injury report.
The named 2017-18 All-Rookie Team, Jayson Tatum, has been scratched out of the lineup multiple times this season due to an ankle injury. Tatum has emerged as a leader on the court in the first years of his career and had a standout performance this season tying Larry Bird’s team record for points in a game.
Walker, who was not in Wednesday night’s game for rest, is recently off the injury list after a left oblique strain. His season-tying 32 points in his first game back from this injury last week showcased why he is such an asset to Boston when he is healthy. He also missed the start of the season with issues related to a torn meniscus in his knee from his time on the Hornets.
More recently, the Celtics took a big blow with the season-ending injury of Jaylen Brown who tore a ligament in his left wrist. Brown was having a career-best season that will be missed as the franchise enters the playoffs.
Along with injuries, the Celtics struggled with COVID-19. Earlier in the season, they led the NBA with the most player-days lost to Covid-19, which was 131. The virus also had a lasting effect on the team with Evan Fournier reporting and being sidelined at times with symptoms that have stuck with him.
These issues created a rocky dynamic and left the Celtics losing to teams that they should have beat.
Despite a season that seemed doomed, the Celtics are ready to move forward and win a title.
“We have to understand [the play-in tournament] is for all the marbles and there’s no redo. We can’t get the season back,” Celtics center Tristan Thompson said. “Whatever is in front of us we have to attack.”
The Celtics prepare for the play-in tournament with games against the Timberwolves and Knicks this weekend. They look to stay in the .500 range and confirm their 7th place standing.