The Boston Celtics expect to get All-Star guard Kemba Walker back but could be missing two other key players when they host the Brooklyn Nets on Tuesday.
Walker is probable after returning to practice Monday following a five-game absence with left knee soreness. He last played Feb. 13 and is expected to be under a minutes restriction if he does take the court.
“It’s going to be tough playing limited minutes,” he said. “But it’s all about the long haul and being healthy when it counts, so that’s what I’m looking forward to. Just working my way toward getting healthy as we get toward the end of the year.”
Even if he’s limited, Walker could be crucial for the Celtics with forward Jayson Tatum and guard Marcus Smart each questionable against the Nets due to illness. Tatum and Smart were added to the injury report after missing practice Monday.
“I don’t have any idea,” coach Brad Stevens said of the duo’s availability.
Such has been a constant for the Celtics this season as short-term ailments have kept the team’s starting five from playing together on a regular basis. Still, Boston is among the top teams in the Eastern Conference, with wins in 14 of its last 18 games.
The Celtics will be looking to bounce back after a 111-110 overtime loss to the Houston Rockets on Saturday that snapped their seven-game home winning streak. Boston is 23-6 at home.
The Nets, meanwhile, enter having lost five of six, including their last four in a row. Tuesday marks the end of a four-game road trip for Brooklyn, which will return home for three straight beginning Wednesday.
The Nets will again be without Kyrie Irving in their second and final trip to Boston. Irving, who played for the Celtics the past two seasons, missed the first trip with a shoulder injury and is now out for the season after it was determined in late February that he would undergo arthroscopic surgery on his right shoulder. General manager Sean Marks said the decision was made “looking at the big picture” despite his team’s current status as the No. 8 seed in the East.
“This is something that he should be back in plenty of time to be working out this summer and obviously be ready for next season,” said Marks.
Despite their slide, the Nets still have a four-game edge on the Washington Wizards in the East standings. Brooklyn rallied from 14 points down in the fourth quarter to get within one in the final seconds before ultimately losing 116-113 to the Miami Heat on Saturday.
“Winning is one of those things that is a confidence thing,” said swingman Joe Harris at practice Monday. “Once you get one win under your belt against a quality team, that can translate into another win. That’s why tomorrow’s game is so important for us.”
Nets guard Garrett Temple is questionable for Tuesday’s game with a right shoulder sprain.
The Nets and Celtics have split their two meetings this season, each team winning at home. They’ll conclude their season series on March 21 in Brooklyn.
–Field Level Media