As expected, the Celtics will be without forward Jaylen Brown for at least a week with a right hamstring strain.
Brown, who dealt with hamstring issues in the past, sustained the injury in the final minutes of the Celtics’ win Thursday over the Miami Heat. It’s already been an injury-plagued season for Brown, who tested positive for COVID-19 in training camp and then missed a game with knee soreness.
Brown said he was feeling the after effects of the virus, which led to some inconsistent performances. But he had put together a string of strong games – 90 points over three games – and a team-leading 17 against the Heat.
“I mentioned the history; he’s had it a few times and he knows his body pretty well and said it didn’t feel terrible but he did feel it,” Celtics coach Ime Udoka said. “He knew it was something and he was being overly cautious himself because of his past history.”
Brown was beset with a right hamstring strain just prior to the NBA’s season postponement in 2020 because of the pandemic. But he was able to return after a long rest and it wasn’t an issue. With Brown out, Dennis Schröder is likely to start depending on matchups.
League admits error
On Sunday the NBA said in its last two-minute report that Marcus Smart was fouled by Kristaps Porzingis with 31.1 seconds left and the Celtics tied with the Dallas Mavericks at 104. Smart drove and drew contact from Porzingis and then tossed the ball toward the basket to try and draw a shooting foul, which wasn’t necessary because the Celtics were already in the bonus.
Not only did Smart not get the call, but the ball was gathered by Luka Doncic and the Mavericks eventually won the game on Doncic’s buzzer-beating 3-pointer. The Celtics never regained possession after Smart’s attempted shot.
It’s not the first time Smart has tossed up a shot thinking he was fouled, only to find no whistle. Should Smart continue to make those risky plays knowing chances are not favorable that he’ll get that call?
“I just think you continue to make the right play,” Udoka said. “Which is Porzingis on the closeout, driving him and [Smart] drew the contact. At the time the official said it was a non-basketball play, which is not the case. The two-minute report said he got fouled before the gather. [Smart] made the right play by not settling and driving and in that case, there’s nothing we can do. He made the right play, drew the foul and didn’t get the call.”
Hindsight is 20/20
The Mavericks All-Star hit a rainbow 3-pointer over three defenders, Josh Richardson, Smart, and center Robert Williams. Could the Celtics have defended him differently? Could Williams have potentially cut Doncic off near the baseline and stopped his dribble?
“What we did in the fourth quarter is let Marcus, Josh, and Jayson [Tatum] guard [Doncic],” Udoka said. “We got an incredible defender on him [Richardson] and they obviously cleared out that side so he can get to his left. Rob is there but he’s on [Reggie] Bullock in the corner so that’s a tough one and Doncic is a willing passer.”
It’s a tough decision for Williams, who could have contested Doncic but that meant leaving Bullock — who was 5 for 10 this season on threes from the left corner — alone for the potential game-winner. Instead, the Celtics trusted that Doncic wouldn’t be able to hit that long three with three defenders in his vicinity. He did.
“Josh contested incredibly,” Udoka said. “At that point, do we want to take it out of [Doncic’s] hands or not? We had been blitzing him most of the fourth quarter. Our choice was to let our best defenders guard him there. You give him credit on that.”
Gary Washburn is a Globe columnist. He can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org. Follow him on Twitter @GwashburnGlobe.