After they lost Gordon Hayward, everyone was ready to bury the Celtics. They were ready to say they had no chance to compete with the Cavaliers without him. Then, the Celtics won 9 straight games before star center Al Horford got injured in their win over the Hawks. Without Al, the Celtics still beat the Lakers and extended their win streak to 10, showing just how resilient they are as a group. And THEN, the Celtics faced off against the Hornets and in the first 3 minutes of the game Kyrie Irving got knocked out and wouldn't return. Just 13 games into the season and all three members of the Celtics big three were out with an injury. The Celtics ended up scoring just 11 points in the 1st quarter and were down 18 at one point. And then, they won anyway.
It's already unbelievable enough that the Celtics were able to win with their star players all out with injuries, but the ridiculousness doesn't stop there. The three Celtics players who took the most shots in the game were Jaylen Brown, Terry Rozier, and Marcus Smart who combined to shoot 9-42 (21%) from the floor and 3-17 (18%) from 3. That is worse than Lonzo Ball's percentages! And yet, the Celtics. Still. Won.
While credit should no doubt be awarded to Shane Larkin and Jayson Tatum for their play in the game as well as the rest of the Celtics players that stepped up to help them grind out the win, Brad Stevens deserves as much credit as anybody. Stevens was already the early season front runner for coach of the year and this may be the statement game that voters look back on at the end of the season that puts Brad Stevens over the top. An 18 point comeback when your star player goes down in the 1st quarter and your other two stars were already out is something not many coaches can handle.
A lot of players on a lot of teams would have checked out with their team down 18 points and without their go to scoring option. It would be easy to just give up, but Brad Stevens is one of best motivators in the league. We've yet to see a Brad Stevens coached team that isn't competing for every second that they are on the court. Tonight was just another example of the type of determination that coach Stevens instills in his teams and he's very likely to be rewarded with a coach of the year award at the end of the season. When the Celtics traded away guys like Avery Bradley and Jae Crowder people wondered if the team would have the same grit after the apparent foundation of their team was gone. As it turns out that gritty mentality was never coming from the players. It was coming from the coach.
For Kyrie, he'll be monitored for the next 24-36 hours for concussion like symptoms and will have to clear the NBA concussion protocol before getting back on the court. As of now he has not been diagnosed or ruled out for Sunday's game against the Raptors in Boston, but the fear is he could miss extended time if he is not symptom free. He took a hard blow from teammate Aron Baynes and it's hard to imagine he escaped without suffering any injures.
For Al Horford, the fact that he was listed as questionable for the Charlotte game is an encouraging sign and likely means he will return for the game against Toronto which is good for a Celtics team that needs all the bodies it can get at the moment. Whether or not Kyrie and Al are ready to go Sunday, as long as Brad Stevens doesn't take a blow to the head, the Celtics will always have a chance.