Celtics Blog

Loss of Sullinger May Be Enough to Sink Celtics’ Playoff Dreams

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Jessica Hill/AP

It seems like just yesterday when we were celebrating the Celtics’ acquisition of Isaiah Thomas, a pure scorer who will solve some big problems on offense and felt like a very important piece in making a playoff push.

Well, it wasn’t yesterday, it was three days ago, and now any of those hopes are probably out the window with the news that Jared Sullinger will miss the remainder of the season with a stress fracture of the metatarsal in his left foot. The Celtics, who will have Thomas in the lineup for the first time against the Lakers in L.A. on Sunday night, will now have to deal with a major disadvantage versus other Eastern Conference teams vying to sneak into the postseason.

It’s not that Sullinger is that much of a game changer. Yes, he’s the Celtics’ leading scorer and rebounder. But his flaws and identity issues (not to mention the fact that this is his second season-ending injury in three years with the Celtics) on the court have been well documented.

But the Celtics are so thin up front, particularly with Kelly Olynyk still about a week away thanks to his ankle injury, that any team with half a brain will just pound the ball inside even more while on the other end, the Celts will be forced to be further dependent on jumpers. Tyler Zeller has had a nice season but he’s now the only healthy, traditional big on the roster not named Shavlik Randolph.

Maybe newcomer Jonas Jerebko, who came over from Detroit in the Tayshaun Prince trade on Thursday, can help. Jerebko is 6’10” but at 231 pounds, he’s a little slim for a bruising power forward. He’s more of a shooter and while he’s pretty good in that regard (39 percent from 3-point range), more perimeter play is the last thing the Celtics need now.

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Will the Celts willingly jump into the tank given the Sullinger news? Doubtful. If Brad Stevens has proven anything in his nearly two years here it’s that he’s not wired to take that path in any way. And Thomas’s arrival will still help the offense significantly regardless of Sullinger’s absence. The Celtics are now probably just good enough to wind up out of the playoffs and in the middle of the lottery.

In other words, NBA purgatory.

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