With the Celtics potentially in position to have a first-round playoff matchup against the Raptors, there have been questions about whether Canada’s COVID-19 vaccine mandate could keep any of Boston’s players from playing in Toronto.
When the Celtics played there last Monday, Jayson Tatum and Jaylen Brown were held out because of knee soreness, and Al Horford was sidelined because of personal reasons. Tatum has said publicly that he is fully vaccinated, and on Wednesday Horford did not address his vaccine status directly but insisted he would be “ready to play wherever.” And on Sunday Brown intimated that he, too, will be eligible to play anywhere.
“Last year I missed the playoffs, had a season-ending injury with my wrist,” Brown said. “This year from a competitive standpoint I’m excited and ready to play against anybody. As a vice president of the players association, it’s a part of my job description to protect our players’ rights and our medical privacy. So you won’t hear me commenting on my status or anybody else’s. But, that’s how I feel about it.”
The Celtics have declined to comment about whether any of their players remain unvaccinated. After defeating the Wizards on Sunday, 144-102, the Celtics moved into second place in the Eastern Conference. The Raptors lost to the visiting Heat on Sunday night, 114-109, dropping them into sixth place, 3½ games behind Boston.
Williams heats up from outside
Celtics forward Grant Williams entered Sunday’s game in an 8 for 38 3-point shooting slump. But he connected on four of his five attempts against the Wizards, and he is hopeful that this could be the start of another hot streak.
Earlier this year, opposing defenses hardly respected Williams as a shooter. They mostly let him fire away without resistance and preferred to keep their focus on Boston’s more potent offensive players such as Tatum and Brown.
But Williams then emerged as the team’s top 3-point shooter, and defenses have adjusted accordingly.
“I feel like I went through it all this season,” Williams said. “You start off, guys are daring you to shoot. Not even halfway through, guys are like getting there, closing out. Then after that they’re like, ‘All right, get him off the line.’ So it’s just a matter of making the right decision each time. Because you’re going to see different coverages as time goes on. You might get open ones, those are the ones you make. You might get [tighter coverage]. It’s just making the right decision, continuing to grow. And that’s one of the biggest things for me this season.”
Keeping an eye on Tatum
Tatum was cleared to play Sunday after being listed as probable because of knee soreness. He had 22 points in 29 minutes and was able to sit for the entire fourth quarter with the lopsided score. But coach Ime Udoka has said squeezing in days off for Tatum will be more important than limiting his playing time. He sat out last Monday’s loss to the Raptors, and once the playoffs begin, Udoka said, Tatum will likely be prepared for a heavy workload.
“He’ll be OK most likely,” Udoka said. “We’re assuming he’s good to go. His minutes aren’t as big of a concern as some other guys that can take a jump” . . . The NBA released the tipoff times for its regular-season-ending 15-game slate next Sunday. The Celtics’ game in Memphis will start at 7 p.m.