Celtics digging deep as injuries mount

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NEW YORK – When you play for Brad Stevens, regardless of how far down you are on the depth chart, you know there’s going to come a time when you will get to play meaningful minutes.

For Abdel Nader that time came Thursday night against the New York Knicks.

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“It was really exciting, probably the first time all year I really had that opportunity,” said Nader, who had a career-high-tying seven points against New York. “It was fun. I was trying my best to get comfortable out there and I think for the most part I did a pretty good job.”

Not only did he score seven points off the bench, but drained a tying 3-pointer in the fourth quarter.

“Kyrie [Irving] saw me, made the pass and I shot it,” Nader said.

Nader’s minutes came about with Jaylen Brown resting a sore left Achilles and Marcus Morris still out with a left knee soreness.

“We’re banged up. We need the next guy to step up and make plays,” said Stevens.

And while the end result wasn’t what Nader or his teammates wanted, getting on the floor and having success when the game’s balance was still undecided is indeed a confidence booster.

“It’s huge,” said Nader who made some nice plays but was still bothered by the missed lay-up he had in the fourth. “That’s part of it, just becoming more comfortable so that the next time I get this opportunity I can perform even better.”

Here are five takeaways from the 102-93 loss to the Knicks:

SEASONAL GRIND
Brown had left Achilles soreness and couldn’t play on Thursday. Shane Larkin was a no-go because of a sore left knee. They are casualties of the seasonal grind that all teams in some capacity have to deal with. But the Celtics are unique in that playing so many games in such a short time frame creates the potential for more injuries, and - other than Gordon Hayward’s ankle in the season opener - they’ve haven’t had to deal with major ones. 

THE 30-POINT CLUB
Boston’s defense has had its share of ups and downs recently, particularly when it comes to keeping an opponent from getting red-hot from the field. The past four games have featured an opposing player scoring 30 or more. You can add Michael Beasley to a list that includes ex-Celtic Kelly Olynyk (career-high 32 points); Indiana’s Victor Oladipo (38 points) and Memphis’ Marc Gasol (30 points). Beasley came off the bench for New York to tally a double-double of 32 points and 12 rebounds in less than 25 minutes, the first player in league history since the 1970-1971 season – the first season the league began tracking starters stats – to do that (Beasley played 24 minutes, 59 seconds against the Celtics).

JAYSON TATUM
No one had a firm grasp on how Tatum would respond on Thursday night after dislocating his right pinky 24 hours earlier. With Brown (left Achilles) out, Boston needed a little more than the usual from Tatum. He finished with an efficient 17 points on 6-for-10 shooting. But what he failed to do was become a bigger factor on the glass (he had just three rebounds) which may have been in part due to the injury.  

REBOUNDING
Speaking of rebounding, Tatum’s lack of rebounds was consistent with how the rest of the team fared. Boston grabbed 35 rebounds against a New York team that had 49. Those rebounds, particularly on the offensive glass, were a major problem for Boston and factored heavily into the loss. Consider this: The Celtics were outscored 18-5 in second-chance points by the Knicks.

KYRIE IRVING
His views on Christmas are what they are. But the one thing all Celtics fans are grateful for is how this dude just keeps on delivering the goods on the court. Irving led the Celtics in scoring once again, tallying 32 points on 12-for-27 shooting. It was Irving’s third game in a row with at least 30 points and his fifth in his past six games. However, Irving probably did a little more “home run” shooting against the Knicks than usual. He took a season-high 15 3s (and made six of them).

 
 

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