Aron Baynes sprains ankle, Kyrie Irving tweaks shoulder in Celtics’ win
Celtics center Aron Baynes sprained his left ankle with 1 minute, 51 seconds left in the first quarter of his team’s 128-100 win over the Knicks on Thursday and did not return.
The play occurred under Boston’s basket as Gordon Hayward was driving along the baseline. Baynes appeared to land on the foot of Knicks rookie Kevin Knox, causing Baynes’s ankle to twist.
The burly center winced in pain, hopped on his right foot a few times and took a seat under the basket for a few moments before eventually limping to the locker room.
Celtics coach Brad Stevens did not have an immediate update on Baynes’s condition, but he acknowledged the center’s toughness somewhat candidly.
“In typical Baynes fashion, he said he’ll do three-on-three drills tomorrow after he does full-court sprints and runs a marathon and then he’ll get ready for the flight,” Stevens quipped. “Then he’ll play on Saturday. But I don’t know if our doctors agree with that, so we’ll see. But, Baynes thinks he can play through anything.”
Also, point guard Kyrie Irving left the game in the final minutes after tweaking his right shoulder on a pass to Marcus Morris. The shoulder was wrapped in ice as Irving sat on the bench.
“It just caught me weird on my shoulder,” he said. “Probably my AC joint or something like that. I’m not diagnosing myself. I’m pretty sure I saw the doctors afterward and it’s probably just the AC joint or something going on there, but I’ll be all right.”
Celtics forward Jaylen Brown returned against the Knicks on Thursday after missing the last three games with a tailbone injury and back spasms, but Stevens elected to bring Brown off the bench rather than tweak his starting lineup.
Brown has consistently said that he has no issue being a reserve, particularly if the Celtics keep winning. But the Celtics believed it was still important to offer him some encouragement, and much of it came from Marcus Smart, the player who has replaced him in the starting lineup for now.
“For any player to go through it is something that could be frustrating,” Smart said. “You’ve just got to make sure they don’t lose their confidence because of it, and that’s one thing with Jaylen. Just make sure he understands how much we do need him even though he’s not in the starting lineup. When he comes in the game, make an impact that he always does. Jaylen understands it.”
Smart, who has come off the bench most of his career, said he mostly told Brown to maintain focus and not force anything as he works his way back.
Stevens had similar advice for Brown, who scored a season-high 21 points on 7-for-10 shooting in Thursday’s win.
“I think the biggest thing when you’re coming up off the bench is not trying to do it all right when you get in the game,” Stevens said. “And just bringing a great deal of readiness to take advantage of your opportunity. And that’s especially true for guys that have been in and out of the starting lineup, generally. But he’ll do a great job of that.”
Last season Brown suffered a hamstring injury in Game 7 of the Celtics’ Game 7 opening-round playoff series against the Bucks. He missed game 1 of the conference semifinals against the 76ers, and when he returned after a one-game absence he came off the bench for three games.
“I’m not looking as much at how many minutes you’re getting,” Stevens said. “It’s how well those minutes are going. And he’s done so many great things for us, not only this year but over the course of the years, I have no doubt his minutes will be well-used.”
Thursday’s game against the Knicks was Boston’s first since last Saturday. Stevens was asked if it was fortunate timing given Brown’s injury as well as the team’s bumpy start to the year.
“If you have kids 13 and 9 [years old], all gaps are well-timed gaps,” Stevens said, smiling. “Whether you’re 7-20 or 20-7, doesn’t matter.”
Burke sits out
Knicks guard Trey Burke, who crushed the Celtics with a 29-point, 11-assist effort in his team’s win over the Celtics at TD Garden on Nov. 21, missed Thursday’s game because of a sprained knee . . . Celtics rookie Robert Williams was assigned to the Maine Red Claws on Thursday prior to the team’s game against the Oklahoma City Blue, but was later excused from the game for personal reasons.