BOSTON — The Celtics shuffled their lineup for Game 4 of their Eastern Conference first-round series against the Cleveland Cavaliers by moving Jae Crowder into the starting lineup and rookie Marcus Smart to the bench.
It’s a move that the team decided on Saturday when it practiced with Crowder in a starter’s role, but it might have occurred anyhow because Smart was tardy to the team’s shootaround on Sunday morning after he overslept.
“Jae Crowder for Marcus Smart. I decided that [Saturday], just because Jae has been very good in this series,” said Celtics coach Brad Stevens, whose team trails the Cavs 3-0 in the series. “We could have gone a couple of different directions with that, but obviously it’s just five more minutes where you’re matched up a little bit more traditionally with [the Cavaliers]. Again, I don’t think it’s an exact science, because our starts have been reasonable. But that’s the decision we made.”
Smart said he was about 15 minutes late to shootaround. He said he went to bed at a normal hour on Saturday night, but suggested his alarm clock did not go off on Sunday morning.
“Coach is doing what he has to do,” he said. “It’s not acceptable, especially when you’ve got everybody here. … I think Coach just made the right decision and it was my fault. I went and apologized to the team, the coach and the coaching staff about it. I’ll take the consequences of it.”
When revealing Smart’s tardiness, Stevens added, “Marcus may not play early with [the second unit], I don’t know what we’re going to do. Marcus was, and I told him I’d share this with you, Marcus was late for shootaround because he overslept. We’ve been there before and, as I told Marcus, I’m not worried about him at all. This is not a big Marcus thing. And Jae Crowder would have started anyways.”
Smart said Stevens told him Saturday he’d be moving to a reserve role.
“I talked to Brad [Saturday] before practice and he told me that Jae was going to start for matchup reasons, which is understandable,” he said. “We’re trying to win the game and Jae’s our best defender on LeBron [James], so we gotta go with that because we’ve got guys that can score the ball, we just need somebody who can help us on defense. Jae’s a factor on the defensive end; [Stevens] made the right decision in starting Jae, and it’ll get that second group going, more energy with me coming off the bench, with Isaiah [Thomas] and those other guys coming off the bench. We just have to keep it up.”
During the regular season, Jared Sullinger was tardy for two shootarounds. Each time he was removed from the starting lineup. The second time, he sat out the entire first quarter.
Sullinger will play Sunday despite bruising his tailbone after hitting the ground hard trying to foul Kevin Love in the first quarter of Game 3. Sullinger did not practice on Saturday, but felt good enough after a pregame workout Sunday that he deemed himself fit to play.
Sullinger said of the injury: “I went up, tried to wrap up Love, and I slipped and fell on my backside. Luckily, I have a big enough [backside] to the point where it didn’t hurt that bad. I didn’t have an Isaiah [Thomas]-type of [tailbone] injury. I was able to bounce back in two days.”
Thomas missed eight games in March due to a bruised backside.
The Celtics’ reluctance to make additional changes to their starting lineup — Jonas Jerebko had practiced with the starters at the end of Saturday’s practice — might reveal trepidation about how much Sullinger will be able to contribute overall.
ESPN.com – NBA