INDIANAPOLIS — The Celtics avoided significant injuries for much of this season, but as the regular season winds down they have suddenly been forced to make sweeping changes.
On Tuesday night against the Pacers, they played their first game without forward Jae Crowder, who is out for at least two weeks with a high ankle sprain. The team already was missing forward Kelly Olynyk, who went through a vigorous pregame workout to test his sprained right shoulder before it was decided he would sit for at least one more night.
Coach Brad Stevens inserted guard Marcus Smart into the starting lineup in place of Crowder, choosing him over Evan Turner in part because he did not want to lose Turner’s playmaking ability in the Celtics’ effective second unit.
“It’s not ideal to play [Smart] at the 3, but he’s got a 6-9, 6-10 wingspan and he’s really strong,” Stevens said. “He’s a physical, tough guy, so he’s able to do that.”
“Nothing’s really is gonna change,” Smart said. “I just try to keep the same mind-set and intensity I have off the bench. I’m just gonna start the game and just try to keep our energy up from the start.”
Smart had 12 points and four rebounds in Boston’s 103-98 loss to the Pacers on Tuesday, though he did miss 7 of 8 3-point attempts.
Video: Marcus Smart vs. Paul George
Stevens does not want to make up for Crowder’s absence by giving the current starters much more playing time. Instead, he will count on some of Boston’s younger players to make an impact.
“I got them all together yesterday and just said, ‘Hey, listen, it’s a great opportunity, because you guys can’t get caught up in whose turn it is on a given night. Just make sure we’re supporting one another. You guys have a great chance to influence games late in the season when it matters most,’ ” he said. “So they should really enjoy that opportunity and relish that opportunity. I’m looking forward to seeing how they do.”
Olynyk, meanwhile, said he continues to experience pain in his shoulder. He is hopeful he will be able to return Wednesday, when the Celtics face the Thunder at TD Garden.
“I’m just trying to give it another night to see if we can get it one step closer,” he said.
Midst of the madness
As Stevens arrived here to guide his team against the Pacers, his former team, Butler, was on its way out. The No. 9-seeded Bulldogs on Tuesday departed for Raleigh, N.C., where they will face No. 8 Texas Tech in an NCAA Tournament first-round game Thursday.
Stevens continues to follow Butler closely and even attended a game here during the All-Star break. He was optimistic about the Bulldogs’ chances in the tournament.
“I know it’s a great venue down in Raleigh to play in, and it should be a lot of fun,” he said. “Obviously, in that tournament there’s never an easy draw by any means, but I really like this Butler team and have liked this Butler team all year. Everybody hits a rough spot, but I think with their experience and their size, especially on the perimeter, you’ve got a chance to play. So every game is gonna be tough.”
Butler’s game tips off at 12:40 p.m. Thursday, and Stevens said he was glad the Celtics’ will not depart for Toronto until 3. He joked that one of the main rules in his family’s home is that when filling out a bracket, the Bulldogs must be chosen as national champions.
At halftime of Tuesday’s game, the Pacers were scheduled to honor the 1954 Milan High School team that won the Indiana state title and was the inspiration for the movie “Hoosiers.”
The title game, in which Milan defeated the much larger Muncie High School, was played at Hinkle Fieldhouse, where Butler plays.
“I think the stories like Milan and stories like that where the underdogs have won enough give everybody else the inspiration that it can be done,” Stevens said.
Clarke in limbo
Wednesday is the final day of Celtics forward Coty Clarke’s 10-day contract. Clarke, who on Tuesday played in his first game since signing with the Celtics on March 7, said the team has not indicated if it will renew his deal.
Clarke played three minutes Tuesday night, making 1 of 3 shots and grabbing a rebound. He is averaging 16.1 points and 7.4 rebounds per game for the Maine Red Claws this season.
“When I got in I made the most [of the] opportunity and I’m thankful for that,” he said. “We’ll see how it goes. We’ll see what’s next for me.”
The Celtics have the option of signing Clarke to a second 10-day contract. If they wish to retain him after that, they must sign him for the rest of the regular season.
“I think I’m just getting better every day and working on my overall game, doing what the coaches ask me and just being more consistent,” Clarke said. “Going out there and giving energy and effort. That’s all I can do.”
Video: Coty Clarke 3-pointer