Boston's second-tier crew proving critical for injury-ravaged Celtics

Quick question. Which Celtic played the most minutes in last night's win over the Trailblazers? The answer is Shane Larkin with 34 minutes. Okay, he was tied for most time on the court with Marcus Morris, but when have you seen Shane play 34 minutes.

Morris was high man for points with 30. How about Rebounds? Greg Monroe with 10. And Assists? Shane with seven. How about the plus/minus numbers in the game. The substitute quartet of Shane, Greg, Guerschon Yabusele and Semi Ojeleye top the numbers there. Highest net rating? Same four guys.

Portland fields a strong team. They have the third-best record in the Western Conference and came into last night's game winning eight of their last nine games. They may have underestimated the talent and grit of the Boston substitutes and end-of-the-bench crew.

Morris started the game but has often been a second-tier player for the Celtics. His offensive production was critical. Guersch is playing more, gaining confidence and contributing. Semi's offensive production remains almost invisible, but he had a positive plus/minus last night and always plays lock-down defense. Larkin is showing us how wise a decision it was for Danny Ainge to acquire him in the off-season. Greg's defense may not be at the level of Al Horford's, but he scores, rebounds and assists.

Buy-out pick-up (Monroe)! Spanish import (Larkin)! Two rookies (Yabu and Semi)! Their continuing task will be to supply defense and offensive production for the remainder of the regular season. Jaylen brown is expected back on the court as soon as tomorrow. We await news on Kyrie Irving's condition and possible return to action following today's knee surgery. Marcus Smart should be available early in the playoff race, and I am still not totally convinced we won't see Gordon Hayward at some point this season.

Once in the playoffs, anything can happen. Other teams, including the Golden State Warriors, have also been hit with the injury bug. I am not a pie-in-the-sky person, but if these second-tier players can keep this up, and we can get our starters back in good health, we can make a lot of noise in the upcoming playoffs. And Brad Stevens should be a shoo-in for Coach of the Year.

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Photo via David Liam Kyle/Getty Images