The Boston Celtics had hoped former Cal star Jaylen Brown would be ready to return for Sunday’s critical game against the Miami Heat.
However, a few hours before Sunday's game he was downgraded to out and did not play. They needed him. Despite a desperate fourth-quarter rally, the Celtics lost to the Heat 130-124 on Sunday. That leaves the Celtics two games behind the sixth-place Heat with four games left as the two teams battle to land the important No. 6 playoff spot in the East.
It is unclear whether Brown will play in Tuesday's game against Miami, but Boston desperately needs to win that game to avoid finishing seventh in the East, which would put the Celtics into the play-in phase of the playoffs. Boston is only 1 1/2 games ahead of Charlotte, which is currently eighth in the East.
Brown, who was an All-Star this season, has missed the past three games with an ankle injury, and though the Celtics were able to get past the lowly 13th-place Magic without him, he was sorely missed in Friday’s 121-99 loss to the Chicago Bulls, who are in 11th place in the Eastern Conference. They also lost Sunday's game against Miami.
Brown has been listed as day-to-day this week, but general manager Danny Ainge said on Wednesday that he did was targeting Sunday’s game against the Heat as his likely return.
“It’s looking like that he’ll probably be returning on Sunday,” Ainge said, according to Boston.com.
As of Sunday morning, the Heat was in sixth place in the East, one game ahead of the Celtics, as they vie to land the sixth spot and avoid the perilous postseason play-in involving the teams that finish seven through 10 in the conference.
Sunday’s game was the first of two consecutive games against the Heat, who face Boston again on Tuesday, and Celtics coach Brad Stevens admitted how important these two games are.
“We put in everything that we need to do, and we’ll have a brief team meeting tomorrow where we’re able to talk about Miami and get ready for that game,” Stevens said after Friday’s loss, according to the Boston Herald. “But obviously, they’re important games. They’re all important right now. But certainly when you’re playing against a team that’s as good as they are and it looks like they’re also getting full. We’re close to it. The team that we’re playing, it’s just like tonight, right? It’s not the sixth- or seventh-place Miami team. When they’re full, they are a monster. And so we’ll have our hands full, and we’ll get ready for them tomorrow, and yes it is a big game but they all are right now.”
After Tuesday’s game against Miami the eltics will have only three regular-season games left.
Rob Williams also missed Friday’s game for the Celtics, but Brown is the key ingredient.
Brown has not played since injuring his ankle last Sunday against Portland. Brown is averaging 24.7 points, but perhaps more importantly he is Boston’s best three-point shooter among its starters, at 39.7 percent. And that improves to 43.9 percent in games in Boston, which is the site of both games against Miami.
The Celtics made only 11 of 39 three-points shots (28.2 percent) against the Bulls on Friday, and leading scorer Jason Tatum was just 3-for-15 from the field, including 0-for-7 on his three-point attempts.
Cover photo of Jaylen Brown by David Butler, USA TODAY Sports
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