BOSTON — Jaylen Brown didn’t make it easy for the Celtics to sit him for Game 1 of the Eastern Conference semifinals on Monday night.
He certainly wasn’t about to make it any easier for Game 2 on Thursday as he lobbied to return from a strained right hamstring suffered in the first half of Game 7 against the Milwaukee Bucks on Saturday night.
While the team eventually ruled him out for Game 1 against the Philadelphia 76ers, Brown did enough in advance of Game 2 for the medical staff to upgrade him from “doubtful” to “probable” about 45 minutes prior to tip-off.
Brown rode a stationary bike to keep the hamstring loose to start the game, then came off the bench and checked in to a huge ovation with 7:14 left in the first quarter.
“Just because it’s such a late decision,” Celtics coach Brad Stevens said of bringing Brown off the bench. “If you have to come right out of the gate and chase JJ Redick all over the place, I think that’s not something we would [want to do] without [him] doing anything the last couple of days.
“Marcus [Smart] is basically a starter for us. We can play those guys interchangeably. Marcus is going to have his hands full, as you always do, when you’re chasing Redick around.”
Brown went on a test run prior to Wednesday’s practice. Stevens said he did more during Thursday’s morning shootaround, where the coach still termed him “doubtful” for the game. Brown then came out about 2½ hours before Game 2 and put the hamstring through an extensive array of cuts, shots and dribbling paces.
Fifteen minutes prior to tip, he ran out on the floor with his teammates and participated in the full pregame warmup.
While his status for Games 1 and 2 provided days of anticipation for Celtics fans, it also provided a dose of uncertainty for 76ers coach Brett Brown.
“It does impact Marcus [Smart] and it probably does impact how they’re going to start a game,” the coach said. “But I still feel confident, committed to worrying more about what we’re doing than trying to make it harder than it is [worrying about the Celtics].
“But we certainly are aware of it. His performance in the Milwaukee series was incredibly impressive. We get it. He is something that is special to this team.”
It’s because he is so special that his coaches and teammates wanted to make sure he was right before he returned to the floor.
“Jaylen is a competitor,” Celtics forward Al Horford said after the 117-101 Game 1 victory. “I know he was doing everything he could to be out there [for Game 1]. His health is most important. We didn’t want any setbacks with him.
“One of the things when I talked to him was like: ‘Hey, we obviously really need you out there. But we need you for the long run. We need you to be healthy and feeling good. We don’t want you to come back tonight, and re-aggravate it, and be out for a long time.’”
Baynes gets props
Brett Brown had some high praise for Celtics center Aron Baynes before the game when it came to Boston’s ability to keep Ben Simmons from getting to the basket in Game 1.
“It’s a common philosophical defensive practice in the NBA," the coach said. "The verbiage has grown over the years that you provide a wall. All of those breakaway point guards — even LeBron [James] as a runaway train, or even John Wall, now Ben — it’s what you do against them. It’s not a secret. It’s that some teams do it better than others. Aron Baynes does it incredibly well.
“Sometimes Ben could have made different decisions when you come down and see that wall that Baynes provides. So we need to move the wall and we need to play the other side of the floor. It’s not going to happen if you think you’re going to go in there and take care of business on a zero-pass or one-pass-one-side-of-the-floor-offense.”
Celtics president of basketball operations Danny Ainge reiterated on his weekly radio interview Thursday morning that Gordon Hayward (ankle surgery) and Kyrie Irving (knee surgery) would both miss the rest of the playoffs no matter how far the Celtics go.
Ainge said on 98.5-FM that Hayward continues to make progress in his return from his gruesome opening-night injury, but has not progressed to the point where he can do the hard cuts necessary for an NBA playoff game.
This news has been published by title Celtics Practice Report: Jaylen Brown Is Confident And Ready To Go For Game 3
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