Celtics forward Jaylen Brown returned to face the Rockets on Monday after missing eight games because of a strained hamstring, and center Robert Williams was back after sitting out three games with a sore knee. Josh Richardson, meanwhile, was sidelined due to a non-COVID illness.
Brown was limited to 22 minutes, 47 seconds, scoring 19 points in the Celtics’ 108-90 victory. Williams scored 2 points and had 15 rebounds in 22:53.
“We haven’t had a ton of continuity all year, so that doesn’t change much because guys have been in and out,” Celtics coach Ime Udoka said. “But [Brown] is a guy that also knows his role and we have sets for him and he’s going to come out and be aggressive. So it’s pretty easy for him to find his spots, but more so with other guys getting used to him getting back and him getting used to what we’ve been doing in the time he’s been gone.”
Williams’s knee soreness has been a recurring issue, and he and Udoka said the Celtics will need to stay ahead of it with some preventive measures. The team would like to ultimately ramp up Williams’s playing time without worry.
“He has to be meticulous with his preparation and rehab,” Udoka said. “The same way Jayson [Tatum] and guys are, they’re going through some things. So, that’s on him and the medical staff to get him ready, get him prepared as far as rehab, the strengthening of everything. You also want to be mindful of the minutes and the increase, because you haven’t had that.
“For him I think, the overtimes, those added up a little bit. I think we’ve played 30 extra minutes, so that’s a whole [extra] game for a guy like him on top of the minute increase anyway. We’re mindful of that. But at the same time, he’s a younger guy and we want him to run the longer stretches than Al [Horford].”
Schröder, Williams back in familiar roles
Dennis Schröder and Grant Williams, who had started while Brown and Robert Williams were out, returned to the bench. Schröder thrived during Brown’s lengthy absence, reaching the 20-point mark in six of the eight games.
But Udoka remained confident that Schroder would have little trouble sliding back into his role as the team’s first option off the bench.
Schröder scored 20 points in 28:18 on Monday.
“It was the initial plan before the injuries and some of the guys missing early in the preseason,” Udoka said. “It’s been pretty easy to plug him in and have him in that scoring role, but the reason we liked him is because he can do both. He finished games, but he gives a scoring punch and has his time out on the court, more so with Jaylen and Jayson and some of the guys out just to balance the lineup.
“So that’s what he did at the start of the season and, fortunately for us, he can do it in the starting group when guys are out. And so, he’ll go back to that. But as well as he’s playing, you still want him to obviously be aggressive and do what he’s been doing the last six, seven games.”
Brown, Tatum, Marcus Smart, and Aaron Nesmith attended the unveiling of the Terrence Clarke Memorial Gym at the Vine Street Community Center on Sunday.
Clarke, a Boston native and Kentucky basketball standout, was killed in a car crash last April while leaving a pre-draft workout in Los Angeles. He became close friends with Brown and was a frequent guest of his at Celtics games during his senior year at Brewster Academy in 2019-20.