WALTHAM — In the season’s final five games, the Celtics’ approach is to improve defensively and remain healthy. They were given some encouraging news about valuable swingman Evan Turner and then welcomed back shooting guard Avery Bradley on Tuesday.
Celtics coach Brad Stevens said Turner would miss Wednesday’s home game against the New Orleans Pelicans — the team’s first game at TD Garden since March 23 — but could return for Friday’s matchup against the Milwaukee Bucks. Turner suffered a left eye abrasion in a collision with the Lakers’ Julius Randle with 15.7 seconds left in the Boston’s 107-100 win on Sunday night.
An examination Monday revealed only the abrasion. Turner may have to wear protective goggles Friday, but the injury isn’t long term.
“Obviously if he were to play [Wednesday], probably would be a day ahead of schedule and forced to wear goggles,” Stevens said. “We’re hopeful that he could be feeling pretty good by Friday and so I think giving him that extra two days is probably a good thing anyway.”
Stevens is quite wary of the Pelicans, who have had to play patchwork lineups with Anthony Davis, Jrue Holiday, Tyreke Evans, Eric Gordon, and Ryan Anderson either lost for the season or missing time because of injury. Former NBADL Maine standout Tim Frazier came off the bench to contribute 19 points and 13 assists in Sunday’s win over the Brooklyn Nets.
“This is part of our journey about getting ready to continue to play our best basketball,’’ Stevens said. “Obviously we’re going to do it without Evan, which is a challenge. New Orleans has been interesting to follow from afar because they’ve really been hit by injuries in a big way. When you watch our game versus them [in December] versus now, only three guys that were playing [then] play [now].”
Frazier was in Celtics training camp two years ago and has also played with the Trail Blazers and 76ers.
“He’s always been a waterbug as far as being able to get off of pick-and-rolls, into the paint, putting pressure on the defense,” Stevens said. “Now with the way he’s shooting the basketball from three and he’s been pretty consistent no matter where he’s been this year. I think he’ll be in the league for a long time. He’s doing a great job. I’m glad the Red Claws and the Celtics played a small role in getting him to where he’s gone.”
Meanwhile, Bradley returned to practice after missing the Lakers games for personal reasons, believed to be the birth of his second child.
“It was tough to be away, I just wanted to be there for my team,” he said. “I’m just happy we got the win. We were playing the right way. Kobe [Bryant] was making shots, that was looking like old-school Kobe, and I’m just happy the way our team was able to finish.”
Bradley’s back for good, and he said the focus is on finishing the final five regular-season games strong. The Celtics are in a cluster of four teams who began Tuesday night separated by a half-game in the fight for the third seed in the Eastern Conference.
“Just preparing for the playoffs, I want to go out there and play as hard as I can to get a rhythm,” Bradley said. “I feel like our defense has been a lot better the last few games and I think that has a lot to do with Brad’s game plan and how hard we’re playing on the defensive end. I’m excited that I’m back on the floor with my team.”
Stevens was asked whether he watched Villanova’s dramatic win Monday over North Carolina on Kris Jenkins’s 3-pointer at the buzzer in the NCAA championship game. Stevens’s Butler team lost to Duke in the 2010 title game, 52-50, when Gordon Hayward’s halfcourt shot banged off the rim.
Stevens said he watched the first half and saw highlights of Jenkins’s shot.
“I think I’m probably the wrong person to ask,” he said. “I think it’s obviously cool to see those kids perform on that stage and get those opportunities and I’m happy for all of them that they got that and to make shots in that moment and to ultimately win it. And the way that both teams handled it I thought was really impressive.
“I usually turn it off when the confetti’s falling, not that I have any memories or anything.”
The Celtics sent rookie Jordan Mickey to NBADL Maine to join second-year forward James Young for the Red Claws’ playoff series against the Canton Charge. The Red Claws dropped the opener Tuesday, 115-114, but Mickey contributed 16 points and eight rebounds and Young scored 11 points. Stevens likes to allow his younger players to get big-game experience in the NBADL. Both players are expected to rejoin the Celtics when Maine’s playoff run concludes . . . Swingman Jonas Jerebko missed Tuesday’s practice for what was believed to be the birth of his first child. Stevens said Jerebko would return for Wednesday’s game.