Boston Celtics head coach Brad Stevens will undoubtedly have a huge challenge in the postseason without star point guard Kyrie Irving, who has a bacterial infection in his surgically repaired knee and will undergo a second procedure this weekend.
Even though Boston’s starting lineup for the playoffs won’t be as intimidating, the team cannot be counted out. As ESPN’s Bobby Marks noted, this team has won many games despite being shorthanded.
Kevin Pelton wrote about how the Celtics, who have gone 12-6 without Irving, have looked without their star point guard (via ESPN):
“In games Irving has missed, with better defenders replacing him at point guard, that’s improved slightly to 5.3 points per 100 possessions better than league average. Given that Boston’s schedule has been a little more difficult than typical with Irving out of the lineup, the sum total is a team 1.6 points per 100 possessions better than average, when adjusted for opponent and game location. But all the Celtics need to do is perform decently on offense to become difficult to beat, even without Irving.”
Below are the most-used lineups by Boston that do not include the star point guard or injured big man Daniel Theis.
Baynes, Horford, Tatum, Brown, Rozier
Outscored opponents by 19.5 points per 100 possession in 87 minutes
Terry Rozier will play a huge role for Boston moving forward and his play will in large part determine just how far the Celtics can advance. When he has been on the court with Irving, Rozier has averaged 12.8 points and 2.8 assists per 36 minutes. Without Irving, he has averaged 17.0 points and 4.2 assists per 36 minutes.
Baynes, Horford, Morris, Tatum, Rozier
Outscored opponents by 20.9 points per 100 possession in 52 minutes
Marcus Morris has been the leading scorer for Boston when Irving is not on the court, averaging 20.3 points per 36. But when he played alongside Irving, Morris averaged 15.9 points per 36. He is averaging 21.6 points per 36 since Irving last played on March 11.
Baynes, Horford, Tatum, Brown, Smart
Outscored opponents by 15.2 points per 100 possession in 43 minutes
Marus Smart has proven that he is the best distributor for the Celtics when Irving is not on the court, averaging 6.1 assists per 36. That’s comparable to the 6.4 assists per 36 that Irving averaged for the Celtics this season. If he is able to return in the first round or if Boston makes it to the second round, they will need that kind of production from Smart.
Horford, Morris, Brown, Smart, Rozier
Outscored opponents by 18.7 points per 100 possession in 35 minutes
Jaylen Brown shot 34.1 percent from three-point range as a rookie. But since the last game that Irving played, the second-year player has shot 53.8 percent on three-pointers. He’s not shooting from long-distance terribly often, though if his hot streak keeps up, it will be a valuable weapon.
Baynes, Ojeleye, Tatum, SmArt, Rozier
Outscored opponents by 25.0 points per 100 possession in 26 minutes
While many have noted that rookie Jayson Tatum is an excellent spot-up scorer, it’s also worth mentioning his prowess as the ball-handler in a pick-and-roll. He averaged 0.94 PPP on this play type, which ranks Top 10 in the East among those with as many opportunities. (Irving held the top spot before his injury.)
Horford, Brown, Tatum, Smart, Rozier
Outscored opponents by 34.1 points per 100 possession in 25 minutes
Al Horford made the 2018 Eastern Conference All-Star team for a reason. He is a dynamic playmaker who can help the team win in various ways. With 1.28 points per possession as a spot-up shooter, only one player with 150 or more opportunities in the East has been more efficient.