What Celtics weakness Daniel Theis' injury scare highlighted

Nick Friar
February 04, 2020 - 6:30 am

The Celtics escaped Atlanta with the win, but they almost lost more than the game when Daniel Theis went down with an injury in the third quarter.

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Theis returned to Boston’s bench and was originally deemed available. He was checked for a concussion and cleared. The staff originally said Theis’ right ankle was fine, as well, but it started to get sore. Ultimately, Boston’s starting center didn’t see game action again in the 123-115 win over the Hawks. (For a complete recap of the Celtics' win, click here.)

As ugly as the fourth quarter was, the Celtics didn’t exactly need Theis to finish off the worst team in the Eastern Conference. But the Celtics could be in trouble on Wednesday when Nikola Vucevic and the Magic come to town.

A single game is far from the concern, though.

Theis' injury scare further exposed how thin the Celtics are at center.

“They’re holding their own against all the centers in the league," Danny Ainge said of the Celtics' bigs on NBC Sports Boston’s “Celtics Pregame Live” on Monday. "We’re not getting beat at the center position. We’re getting 17, 18 points a night, we’re getting double-figure rebounds. … I feel good about our center position.”

Now, Enes Kanter has shown he can be impactful, but in spurts. He cannot do what Theis does on the defensive end. Neither can Robert Williams — who hasn’t played in a game since December 6.

That’s the other problem. Who knows what Williams will look like when he gets back? Sure, he’ll block shots and finish off some lobs, but he’s missed out on 28 games worth of chemistry-building. A big part of what makes the Celtics’ defense so effective is the guys know one another’s strengths and weaknesses as well as their own, and they know where each guy needs to be throughout the rotations.

That’s not saying Williams hasn’t paid attention to what’s going on, but watching film isn’t the same as game action. It could take him some time to adjust.

Williams can still be part of the solution, if he can ever get healthy. But that’s in a role similar to Kanter — meaning short bursts. Grant Williams helps at the five, but only in certain situations. Generally, he’s better served at the four.

While it seems like Theis’ injury wasn’t too serious, the scare should be enough for Ainge to at least reconsider making a move for one of the bigs available on the trade market. Because an injured Theis could drastically hurt whatever chance the Celtics have at making a deep postseason run.

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