Celtics center Kristaps Porzingis continues to make progress as he rehabilitates the calf strain that has caused him to miss the last three games.
Coach Joe Mazzulla said Porzingis completed an on-court workout prior to Thursday’s practice, but did not take part in the group session. Mazzulla added it’s unclear whether Porzingis will return for Monday’s In-Season Tournament quarterfinal game against the Pacers.
“But he feels better than he did before,” Mazzulla said before the Celtics beat the 76ers, 125-119, on Friday night at TD Garden. “So I think we’re just trying to continue to take it day by day and see how it feels.”
The Celtics may not have needed Porzingis against the extremely shorthanded 76ers, however. Reigning MVP Joel Embiid and likely All-Star Tyrese Maxey sat out because of an illness, and Nicolas Batum was sidelined with a hand injury.
Former Celtic Marcus Morris, who was acquired Nov. 1 from the Clippers in the James Harden trade, moved into the starting lineup for the 76ers, along with Patrick Beverley and Paul Reed.
Al Horford started at center again for the Celtics in place of Porzingis and scored 20 points on 7-for-9 shooting.
All too familiar matchup
The Celtics and 76ers have already faced each other three times this season, in addition to one preseason matchup.
“It’s a bad thing,” 76ers coach Nick Nurse said. “I was saying that today to somebody: It seems pretty early to have our third game against somebody, anybody, let alone these guys today. But it is what it is.”
The teams’ Feb. 27 game at TD Garden will be their final regular-season tilt.
White’s versatility key
The Celtics had outscored opponents by a team-leading 14.8 points per 100 possessions with Derrick White on the court, an impressive figure considering the fleet of stars around him. Mazzulla said the splashy differential is a byproduct of the guard’s versatility.
“He has the ability to guard one through five,” Mazzulla said. “We have the ability to play different matchups with him and then offensively he can both be a facilitator, he could score in pick-and-roll, and he can stay spaced and shoot catch-and-shoot shots. So just regardless of the lineup that’s out there, he can make a positive impact on the lineup because he can go back and forth.
“Like, does he need to score? Does he need to pass? Does he need to defend how are defending? So, he’s just good at that.”
In post positions
Jayson Tatum and Jaylen Brown have been more active in the post this season, combining to post up on 4.5 possessions per game entering Friday night. Brown said he and Tatum have been looking to unlock other areas of their game.
“I just think that’s two of our skill sets, me and Jayson,” Brown said. “Love to play with our back to the basket as big wings, take advantage of matchups and you score more efficiently, especially in the playoffs when things get a little tougher.
“It’s a way to get shots. And it’s always been that way throughout time. So just being able to use that more but still having a high efficiency and space for the offense is important.”