Are Irving and Smart's absences tonight vs. Nets coincidence or a test?

I find it a bit odd that not soon after I write about Kyrie Irving and Marcus Smart as the two solid mainstays of the Celtics team, I read Tom Wade's article indicating both are out tonight against the Nets. Coincidence or message? Irving is out with a quad bruise, and Marcus is among the missing due to illness - his first missed game all season.

In this morning's article, I wrote the following about the starting backcourt for Boston:

I have no issues with the starting backcourt of Kyrie Irving and Marcus Smart. What the Hell more can we ask of Kyrie? He is clearly frustrated. Smart? He sits at the 18th ranking in Real Plus Minus for the entire League. For certain games, I focus mainly on his defense. It is outstanding. And damn it - he is even hitting shots now.

How bad is Kyrie's bruise? I have no idea. Smart's illness? Ditto. Enough to keep them out of action? No idea. But this is what Red Auerbach would have done. Put the reserves in and challenge them to show how much grit and heart they possess. No counting on Irving to carry the offensive load. No Smart to direct, and support, the defense. The following is from a reader, 4KAU11, via comment to my article:

I hope we get to see "Iwannamakeit" tonight with Yabu and Time Lord. Each of those guys are hungry. No matter what, they will play as hard as they can. I also think Semi deserves to play on effort and hunger. Maybe Brad should start the bottom of the bench and work his way up. I say start Hayward and those four guys and let the others watch. Sitting on the bench has a way of making one hungry,

So are the two missing Celtics mainstays totally for real, or is this a bit of a very temporary shakeup to see how the remaining team responds. I may have missed it, but I didn't see any indication of Kyrie hurting after the Orlando loss, And Smart's first game out happens immediately after another display of frustration, this time from Irving. I very well could be wrong, but count me as skeptical.

If it is more than a coincidence, and Brad Stevens is using this as a heart test for his other troops, I commend him. And it is certainly probable that the maladies are severe enough to warrant absence, but I would prefer that this troop-shortage was purposeful. The following comment from a reader, OldDog.

If they continue to play the way they are, I myself might need someone to check me with that stethoscope

As I wrote in my previous article, Danny used that stethoscope in 1984 to check the hearts of his teammates after a bad loss in the playoffs. I suggested he needed it again because his team lacks heart. No stethoscope needed tonight. The remaining guys in green have a chance to show just how talented, tough and team-oriented they can be - and that they can win this game. Should be interesting.

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Photo via Christopher Evans/Boston Herald