Shorthanded Celtics to host road-weary Nuggets

BOSTON — The Boston Celtics, still looking to have their entire team on the floor in the same game, host the road-weary Denver Nuggets on Sunday night.

The Celtics (3-2) played the first three games of the season without the injured Marcus Smart and Kelly Olynyk, then got Smart back but lost Al Horford to a concussion prior to Wednesday's home win. In that game, Jae Crowder went down with a left ankle sprain.

Olynyk appears to be the closest to returning, from offseason shoulder surgery. He has officially been listed as questionable for Sunday night's game.

“I'd say he's closer than further, so we'll see,” coach Brad Stevens said Saturday. “He's going to be listed as questionable, but that's going to be completely his and (trainer Ed Lacerte's) call. But he's getting a lot better … he's right around the corner here.”

Olynyk practiced with the Maine Red Claws, the Celtics' D-League team, Friday.

Meanwhile, Horford had progressed to jogging on a treadmill and doing some on-court work and the swelling was down in Crowder's ankle.

“Al's getting better,” Stevens said. “He did a little bit of activity, as you probably saw above. He's going to be out on the court a little bit today, but he'll be out tomorrow (against the Nuggets). If everything goes well today then we'll up his activity tomorrow but he will not be cleared to play by game time, is what I've been told.”

The Nuggets (2-3) are 1-2 on their current five-game road trip that will give them six of their first seven games away from home.

Saturday night in Detroit, they fell behind 10-0 and were down 29-12 at the end of the first quarter and never caught up. Sunday, they face a team playing on its home floor and one that hasn't played since losing in Cleveland Thursday night — and will do it with a different starting lineup.

“I'm just tired of watching the struggle that goes on out there,” said coach Michael Malone. “It almost looks like they're disinterested to start the game and if we're going to go down, we're not going to go down like that.

“Our defense was horrendous tonight. They did whatever they wanted. It's the fifth game in a row where the squad came out asleep, so we're not going to have the same starting lineup tomorrow night. We can't afford to keep building ourselves 15-20 point deficits to start the game and play catchup. That group is unable to change that, so we'll try to mix up the lineup to give ourselves a better chance at playing 48 minutes because I'm tired of watching that.”

Before the game, Malone said, “Regardless of who we play, our goal is to play with pace for 48 (minutes), whether it's Minnesota or Boston tomorrow night. We have to be true to ourselves and play our style of basketball.”

Clearly, that didn't happen Saturday night.

The Nuggets got Gary Harris (groin) back Saturday, but Will Barton remained out with a sprained ankle.

The Celtics have swept the two-game season series from the Nuggets each of the last two seasons and are 5-1 over the last three.