After returning to action for the first time in nine games because of a high right ankle sprain, Celtics forward Jae Crowder was pooped after a rugged 35 minutes against the Portland Trail Blazers on March 31.
His ankle couldn’t withstand the pounding of another game the next night. Crowder is not close to fully healed, and he won’t be completely healthy through the playoffs. That is a certainty.
“I probably should have sat out [the Portland game] but I really, really wanted to test it,” said Crowder, who had returned with a 13-point, 10-rebound performance.“I was pleased with what I did that night.”
That next game came against the Golden State Warriors last Friday night, a game Crowder quickly counted himself out of because of discomfort. He needed a break, and made the sacrifice of missing the Celtics’ road showdown, one of the more critical games of the season.
Instead, he opted for treatment.
As the Celtics were trading blows with the Warriors, as Isaiah Thomas was exchanging 3-pointers with Stephen Curry, Crowder sat on the training table in the visitors’ locker room at Oracle Arena.
“I was in the back going nuts,” Crowder said. “It was so tough for me because I’m so used to being out there. I’m in the back and I heard the arena going crazy. But our guys really gutted that one out and played so tough. That’s why I came out on the court after the game, I was so pumped.”
Crowder could have sat at the end of the Celtics’ bench during the Golden State game, but he opted to get some valuable treatment until about five minutes left in the game, when he shut down his session and watched his team pull out a stunning 109-106 win.
The 6-foot-4-inch Crowder has accepted that treatment will have to be part of his regimen, but he hasn’t accepted that such a severe injury could affect his ability to produce for a Celtics team that desperately needs his defense and shooting. He has accepted the fact that treating this high ankle sprain will be a daily chore, even on those rare days such as Thursday, when the team reported to Waltham for a quick film session and no on-court practice.
Crowder spent that time in treatment.
“I talked to the doctor and he said the swelling won’t go down until June or July, when this whole [season] is over,” Crowder said. “It’s going to swell throughout the whole process. The doctors told me ‘it’s going to nag for the rest of the way out and you just have to really take care of yourself when you have down time and keep those twice-a-day treatments up and hope for the best.’ ”
Crowder scored 9 points Friday night in the Celtics’ 124-109 win over the Milwaukee Bucks at TD Garden, a victory that was significant for two reasons.
It helped Boston keep pace in its quest for the third seed in the Eastern Conference playoffs and the blowout allowed coach Brad Stevens to rest some of his starters in the second half, including Crowder.
Boston will conclude its regular season on one of its toughest stretches, a three-game showdown with the three other clubs competing for that third seed — Atlanta (on Saturday), Charlotte (Monday) and Miami (Wednesday). The Celtics desperately need an energetic and agile Crowder for that set.
So a light night was much needed, and Crowder will spend the hours leading up to Saturday’s game at Philips Arena again undergoing treatment.
“It’s pretty big,” Crowder said of the Atlanta game. “It’s one that will matter at the end. Guys should be well rested and it was a good thing we took care of business in the third quarter [Friday]. We’re young and just have to get some momentum going into the playoffs and we’ll be fine.”
When asked about his condition, Crowder offers that “you know I’m not healthy” expression. But he won’t use the injury as an excuse for his performance. He has become accustomed to playing in pain. So far his numbers since his return — 12-for-38 shooting and 5 for 20 from the 3-point line in the past three games — have been less than stellar.
But as he becomes more comfortable playing on the gimpy ankle and as his treatments take a more positive affect, he assures he’ll be primed for the postseason. There is no other option.
“It’s a process and I’m doing everything I’ve got to do to take care of my body and try to get it ready for the postseason,” he said.
“Any day off is going to help me. On days off I still come in and do my [treatment] and as many days as I can I stay off of it and get it worked on, it helps.”
Crowder could use a couple of days off before the playoffs, but that’s not an option as long as the Celtics are chasing the third seed. So Crowder accepts his fate, plays on a swollen leg, withstands the pain and during his free time — undergoes treatment.