DETROIT — The Celtics are beginning to pile up injuries that could curtail their early-season momentum.
The club ruled Jaylen Brown out an hour before Saturday night’s 117-108 win against the Detroit Pistons with left knee soreness.
Brown was hobbled in the third quarter Friday night when he banged knees with a Nugget in the Celtics’ win at TD Garden. He remained in the Denver game but was listed as questionable hours before tipoff, then finally scratched. He joined Al Horford (back soreness) and Malcolm Brogdon (hamstring tightness) on the inactive list.
With Brown and Horford unavailable, Blake Griffin made his first start as a Celtic and Derrick White also was in the opening lineup.
Celtics coach Joe Mazzulla said Brogdon is making progress while Horford’s back will be monitored, especially on the second night of back-to-back sets. Horford has yet to play in the second game of a back-to-back as the club monitors his early-season workload.
“It’s definitely something to be cautious about throughout the season,” Mazzulla said of Horford. “Especially without Rob [Williams, recovering from knee surgery] right now and him playing the heavy loads, especially at [center]. We have to be as cautious as we can with that.”
The Celtics schedule doesn’t get any easier in the next week, with games against Oklahoma City, Atlanta, New Orleans, and Chicago the next nine days. Including playing the Pistons, the Celtics have 10 games over the next 19 days.
“These are the times where we talk about depth, we talk about versatility and you rely on that,” Mazzulla said. “And I thought [Friday] started with the minutes Payton [Pritchard] gave us. I thought Luke [Kornet] gave us great minutes, so just adding those guys to the rotation gives us that depth. I feel really comfortable regardless of who’s in just because of the mind-set that we have from our depth and versatility.”
Mazzulla said he is learning to give his players breathers during games to preserve energy long term.
“That’s something I’m learning as a coach to steal some minutes, whether it’s with a timeout or early sub,” he said. “It’s something that I’m learning but it also comes down to how’s the game going and give us the best chance to win, but it’s definitely something you have to be aware of.”
Tatum appreciates Horford all the time
Jayson Tatum was asked about Horford’s career night from the 3-point line Friday. The 36-year-old Horford tied his career best with six 3-pointers in the 131-112 win. Tatum said he couldn’t be happier for his veteran teammate and mentor.
“It’s super special,” Tatum said. “I say this all the time, Al is for sure one of the best teammates I’ve ever had at any level. I think about being 19 and coming in my first year and him kind of taking me under his wing from a professional standpoint. I remember the first training camp, every day after practice he would just encourage me and ask me how I was feeling, good days and bad days, he always seemed to check up on me.”
There was a hilarious moment during Tatum’s rookie season when he asked Horford what year he was drafted. Horford responded, “2007,″ and Tatum responded with, “Damn Al, I was in the fourth grade!”
Ten years later, Tatum was a Celtics rookie and Horford became his mentor.
“Al is like the ultimate professional, the ultimate teammate,” Tatum said. “He’s extremely selfless, always wants what’s best for the team and six years later for him to be the same person and at 36 years old still be a starter just shows how he takes care of his body every single day. Even if he’s not the most vocal guy, somebody I’ve always kind of, like, learned from how to go about things.
“It’s not a given you are going to play 16 years in this league and he’s still at the top of his game. No surprise that he’s playing the way he is but he deserves a lot of credit for the success we have this season and continue to have, and obviously last year.”
Pistons go without Cunningham
Cade Cunningham struggled mightily in the Pistons’ first matchup with the Celtics Wednesday and Detroit coach Dwane Casey said his standout guard was laboring with shin soreness. The same injury sidelined him Saturday night and the Pistons said Cunningham also will miss the next three games … Pritchard, who has been the beneficiary of Brogdon missing time, tied his career high with four offensive rebounds Friday in addition to his 11 points on 5-for-6 shooting. Pritchard last collected four offensive rebounds in his rookie season, when he helped the Celtics to a late win over the Miami Heat on Jan. 6, 2021.
Gary Washburn is a Globe columnist. He can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org. Follow him on Twitter @GwashburnGlobe.