BOSTON — Celtics coach Ime Udoka said after Boston’s 107-98 win over the Atlanta Hawks Tuesday night at TD Garden he was optimistic Jaylen Brown’s right ankle sprain won’t keep him out in the long run.
“[He] rolled it,” said Udoka. “Obviously have swelling and soreness. He tried the back and wanted to come out and play again, [but] Just decide on the big picture where we are in the season and be smart. So we’ll know more in the next few days.”
Brown missed practice Wednesday and likely won’t play the Grizzlies on Thursday.
Brown went down on a drive earlier in the first quarter when it appeared he either slipped or landed on someone’s foot. After initially grabbing his hamstring, Brown remained on the court for an extended period of time, eventually getting up and off the ground under his own power, but with a limp.
The fact that Brown, who averaged 23.7 points and 6.3 rebounds, could run away – and want to get back in – gave Udoka confidence it won’t be long before he’s back.
“You would hope so,” said Udoka. “He went alone and then tried to go to the back. So you would hope so. But we will evaluate him in the next few days and hopefully it doesn’t look like it. But you never know, it can change overnight with swelling and pain.”
Hawks star Trae Young suffered a sprained left ankle when he landed on Marcus Smart’s foot late in the first quarter. Smart was called out for a flagrant foul on the game, and Young took the free throws and then went to the Atlanta dressing room.
Young was back on the bench early in the second quarter and played the rest of the game – although he admitted his ankle became stiff as the night wore on.
“It hurts right now, but I feel like I could have played through the pain tolerance right now,” he said. “It still hurts, but I’m pretty confident that I can go through pain and stuff like that, so I plan to play it through.
“Late it got stiff. I think when I went into the locker room about halfway and then came out again it got stiff so it took me a minute to kind of get the running going. But as long as I keep it loose here in the next couple days or whatever, hopefully I can keep it going.”
However, Young’s presence wasn’t enough to stop the Celtics turning the game upside down after the break. Boston started the second half on a 51-23 run to turn a double-digit deficit into a double-digit lead as Young was limited to just 10 of his 31 points after the break.
“Upped the physicality,” said Udoka when asked what changed the game for Boston. “We talked about that at half-time and showed it. It was a little holdover from the last two games where we weren’t our best defensively and it obviously happened in the first half where it happened [Young] came away clean too many times and got too many good looks.
“[There was] no screaming and screaming; It was more like, ‘Go back to what we are defensively, what we did.’ And of course a 13-point third and a 20-point fourth show what we can do and a big chunk obviously stopped him. Having 21 in the first half was way too much.”
Atlanta also struggled with the absence of big man Onyeka Okongwu, who was included in the league’s concussion logs. Okongwu appeared to have been caught by an accidental elbow from Celtics guard Derrick White early in the second quarter and left the game a few seconds later. The Hawks ruled out the sophomore forward for the remainder of the contest due to protocols just before the start of the second half.
Okongwu, 21, is averaging 8.9 points and 5.5 rebounds after being selected sixth overall in the 2020 NBA draft.