With Rajon Rondo and Avery Bradley sidelined, the Celtics were without their starting backcourt Friday in their 99-89 win over the Sacramento Kings at TD Garden.
In light of their absences, Celtics coach Brad Stevens started undrafted rookie point guard Phil Pressey and swingman Gerald Wallace. The other starters were forwards Brandon Bass, Jeff Green, and Jared Sullinger.
Rondo, the team’s captain and star point guard, sat out with what Stevens described as “general soreness.”
“He’s played [eight] games in 20 days and hasn’t done that for a year,” Stevens said before the game, “and I think the [soreness] is just a cumulative effect of that.”
Rondo missed nearly a year after suffering a right knee injury before returning to action in January, but Stevens stressed that as far as the Celtics and their medical staff know, Rondo doesn’t have any “structural” issues with that knee.
Stevens added that he expects Rondo should be able to play Sunday when the Celtics face the Mavericks at TD Garden.
However, Sunday’s game marks the first of a back-to-back set, and Stevens said he expects Rondo to sit out Monday when the Celtics travel to Milwaukee to play the Bucks.
Rondo is expected to play Wednesday against the Spurs at TD Garden, Boston’s final game before the All-Star Break.
The Celtics were also without Bradley, who, Stevens said, “twisted” his recently sprained right ankle during Wednesday’s game.
Bradley returned to the lineup two games ago after missing five games with a sprained right ankle. Stevens was asked if he was concerned that this could be a lingering issue for Bradley, but he said he didn’t think so.
Stevens said they would make a determination about whether Bradley would play Sunday after Bradley practices with the team Saturday.
Rookie center Vitor Faverani also missed the game after recently tweaking his knee. An MRI revealed no damage and Faverani, who has played sparingly lately, is day to day, Stevens said.
Johnson in fold
The Celtics formally announced signing Chris Johnson to a multiyear contract.
The 23-year-old swingman will remain with the team through the end of this season. The deal also gives him future nonguaranteed seasons, meaning he should have a chance to at least make next season’s roster if the Celtics don’t include his deal in a trade.
Johnson joined the Celtics in January after playing with the Rio Grande Valley Vipers of the NBA Development League. He impressed the Celtics with his play through a pair of 10-day contracts, the second of which expired Thursday night.
His deal will pay him about $320,000 — a figure pro-rated from the $788,872 base salary for a player with one year of NBA experience. (Johnson played in eight games last season with Memphis.)
With Johnson’s deal on their books, the Celtics now have one open roster spot and are less than $1 million from reaching the $71.75 luxury-tax line.
The Celtics have said they don’t want to be a tax-paying team this season.
Celtics reserve guard Jerryd Bayless and Sacramento guard Isaiah Thomas engaged in a fourth quarter scuffle that resulted in some harsh words after the game.
The fracas began when Bayless hit the floor after being fouled by Thomas. Thomas backpedaled into him, then stood over Bayless for an extended moment. Bayless wasn’t pleased and pushed Thomas.
The players had to be separated and referees issued technical fouls to both.
Their war of words continued after the game, with Thomas calling Bayless “a fake tough guy.”
“I don’t like him,” Thomas said. “End of story. He’s a fake tough guy.’’
Thomas did say Bayless knows why the two don’t get along.
“Ironically, we played AAU together,” Bayless said. “We were on the same AAU team together. It’s stupid, but it happens.”
It was also Thomas’s 25th birthday. He scored 24 points.
Bayless added 19, his most since joining the Celtics in a January trade.
Wallace steps up
With Rondo out, one of the Celtics’ biggest playmakers was Wallace, who nearly had a triple-double with 8 points, 12 rebounds, and 9 assists.
“That’s just Rondo with [dreadlocks],” said Sullinger, who had a career-high 31 points and 16 rebounds. “That’s all. That’s how Gerald has been all year.
“He’s always playing the dirty guy, doing the dirty work. He did that today.”
Said Stevens, “He was great. He came up with big-effort rebounds, came up with steals. He’s an aggressive guy and I think that aggressive players have a contagious effect.”
Stevens also praised Wallace’s emotionally charged effort after Wallace suffered a death in the family last week.
“It was a really tough week for Gerald last week,” Stevens said. “He said it, I think I read where he said it’s nice to be back and back in a comfort zone of playing because it was tough week for him.
“You can kind of see, he’s just excited to be out there.”
Just rolling along
After the Celtics’ third straight win, Bayless said he has high hopes for the team.
“We want to continue down a good stretch before the All-Star break,” Bayless said. “Everyone was kind of down with all the losing we were doing before that.
“There’s still a lot of season left. With a lot of season left, you never know what could happen. We could make a run.”Baxter Holmes can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org Follow him on Twitter @BaxterHolmes.