INDIANAPOLIS — Celtics forward Jaylen Brown missed his third consecutive game on Friday night against the Pacers because of back spasms, but he is progressing and is confident that he will be ready to return soon.
“I’m getting better,” Brown said before the Celtics defeated the Pacers, 117-97. “I’m moving in the right direction. I’m feeling a lot better than I did yesterday, so that’s what counts.”
Brown’s back flared up when he bent over during the Celtics’ morning shootaround prior to their game against the Heat on Monday. He missed Wednesday’s game against Miami, too, and appeared to be in considerable pain as he winced when standing up or sitting down, and was walking quite gingerly.
But he showed considerable improvement on Thursday and was able to take part in noncontact portions of the Celtics’ shootaround on Friday before doing some one-on-one work.
After the shootaround, coach Brad Stevens said he believed Brown was actually “questionable to probable” for Friday night’s game against Indiana, but Brown was ruled out about an hour later.
“They don’t want it to be a problem coming into the playoffs,” Brown said. “So, to risk playing now — of course it’s a must-win game, but if I risk injuring it further it could possibly lead into the playoffs, and that’s what we don’t want. So it’s definitely having a game plan, being smart, and executing it. That’s what’s important.”
Celtics forward Marcus Morris, meanwhile, returned after missing one game with left knee pain.
Morris had initially been listed as out, but he was upgraded to questionable later in the day before being cleared to play. Morris finished with 11 points and six rebounds in 24:25 of playing time.
Morris, who has battled tendinitis at times over the past two years, took part in a lengthy shooting workout after the team’s shootaround ended Friday. He said he has “zero” concern about being sidelined for the playoffs.
Pacers point guard Darren Collison missed Friday’s game because of a sore groin.
Irving, Stevens are fine
After the Celtics’ win over the Heat on Wednesday, point guard Kyrie Irving said his relationship with Stevens had “grown tremendously” over the course of this season.
“It’s made my job a lot easier going to the sideline knowing we’re on the same page,” Irving said then. “It makes it easier to just go out there and play free and really do my job of leading this team.”
On Friday, Stevens was asked about his side of their partnership. He started by saying that everything Irving says or does is overanalyzed.
“I think that he’s a really smart guy,” Stevens said. “He’s very easy to get along with. He’s a very easy guy to be around, so I’ve never really looked it as like something that is broken or needed fixing. I just think we’re in an 82-game season, there’s ups and downs, and ultimately, we’re both trying to get to the same place, and that’s to win and be the best we can.
“I’ve kept coaching, he’s kept playing, and we’ve been good all year in my eyes. But certainly, if he said that, I guess that’s a good thing. But I’m not going out of my way to be different than I am, and I don’t want him to go out of his way to be different than he is. I just want us all to be the best versions of ourselves.”
Rozier exits early
Celtics point guard Terry Rozier left Friday’s game in the second quarter due to an stomach illness and Stevens said that he was transported to a local hospital to be treated with intravenous fluids . . . Center Aron Baynes appeared to tweak his knee during the fourth quarter. He exited the game, but Stevens said that Baynes turned out to be fine.