CLEVELAND — The Celtics are crawling toward the finish line as a late-season rash of injuries has taken a toll and severely shortened the roster.
Just hours before the Celtics took on the Cleveland Cavaliers Saturday night at Quicken Loans Arena, coach Brad Stevens learned that Rajon Rondo (bruised left shin) and Jerryd Bayless (hyperextended right knee) would join Jared Sullinger (sprained left ankle) on the unavailable list, meaning Boston entered the game with just eight healthy players.
That meant little as they coasted to a 111-99 win over the Cavaliers. Each starter played at least 31 minutes with Phil Pressey leading the way with 42:11. Kelly Olynyk logged a career-high 38:52, finishing with 25 points and 12 boards.
Kris Humphries, who returned to the lineup Friday after missing two games with right knee tendinitis, was scratched just minutes before tip-off. The veteran forward worked feverishly before the game to get prepared.
Stevens inserted Olynyk in the starting lineup for just the seventh time this season and first since Nov. 22. Without Humphries and Sullinger, the Celtics were extremely limited in the middle, allowing for former Miami Heat big man Joel Anthony to log big minutes.
Stevens did not have many options. Pressey is the team’s healthy point guard, although Avery Bradley is playing some minutes in that role. Green is sliding into minutes at shooting guard, while role players Chris Johnson and Chris Babb got increased minutes.
“We were shorthanded as far as bodies go but all eight guys were pretty good and locked in tonight,” Stevens said. “And three guys coming off the bench that weren’t even here until mid-January.”
Stevens said he has no intention of shutting players down for the final two games if they are healthy enough to play, although Sullinger’s injury appears more severe. An MRI on Bayless’s right knee showed only a bone bruise, and he could rejoin the team in Philadelphia on Monday.
Effort is there
While he easily could focus more on his pending free agency, Humphries worked out for about an hour prior to Saturday’s game to make an attempt to play. Humphries has impressed the organization with his work ethic. After an MRI on his right knee Friday revealed only tendinitis, he decided to play in the 106-103 win over Charlotte, grabbing seven rebounds in 11 minutes.
“I had a good workout and I figured I’d play,” Humphries said Friday. “It hurt sometimes, but I took some time [off] and it felt a lot better. Playing the last couple of days, you feel it a little more, you need some time to get healthy.”
Anthony, acquired in January from the Heat in a three-team deal, has played sparingly since the deal but his 21:35 of action Saturday night included a nifty up-and-under move and strong interior defense. He finished with 4 points, 3 rebounds, and 2 blocked shots.
“It was good to finally get consistent minutes in a game,” he said. “Just feels great to be back out there on the court. Obviously, not to be nostalgic but it brings back memories of, you’re able to get those minutes consistently before, so it was definitely nice. My timing is definitely not where I wanted it to be but I was happy to be able to help the guys contribute to a win.”
Olynyk had three assists Saturday night to reach 101 on the season and become only the 12th Celtics rookie, and first since Paul Pierce in 1998-99, to record 500 points, 300 rebounds, and 100 assists. The list includes Bob Cousy, Frank Ramsay, Tom Heinsohn, Dave Cowens, Larry Bird, and Antoine Walker . . . Cleveland forward Luol Deng (back) didn’t play Saturday . . . Neither Dion Waiters nor Kyrie Irving played in the fourth quarter, when the Cavaliers scored 41 points. That was the most the Celtics have allowed in a quarter this season.Gary Washburn can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org. Follow him on Twitter at @GwashburnGlobe.