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Celtics’ Jaylen Brown tears ligament in left wrist, out for season

Jaylen Brown, Celtics

In a year marked by lots of injuries, the NBA landscape just shifted even more as the playoffs approach next week. Jaylen Brown of the Boston Celtics, an essential part of a team which has struggled all season long, has been ruled out for the rest of the season with a torn ligament in his left wrist.

The Celtics just lost to the Miami Heat on Sunday to fall into seventh place in the Eastern Conference, which puts them in the play-in round. Boston is 35-33 heading into Monday night’s action, two games behind the Heat and the Atlanta Hawks, which are both 37-31 and tied for fifth in the East.

This turn of events with Jaylen Brown makes it highly unlikely that the Celtics can catch either the Heat or Hawks for the No. 6 seed and an escape from the play-in round. That’s the main seeding-related storyline here.

The other big story is that the No. 8 Charlotte Hornets, currently in position to face the Celtics in the play-in round, would have a much better chance of beating Boston since Brown won’t be available for that game.

The Celtics really could fail to escape the play-in round at this point.

Beyond that specific concern — which relates to the NBA play-in tournament and the battle to avoid it — the other really big story attached to the Jaylen Brown injury is that it reshapes the larger playoff picture in the East.

The badly damaged Celtics — if they do lose to the Hornets in the 7-versus-8 East play-in game — might be an outright underdog against the No. 9 Washington Wizards in a possible battle for the eighth and final playoff seed in the East.

Some observers might have already arrived at that view, but Jaylen Brown being unavailable for Boston in each one-game playoff contest next week increases the odds that the Hornets will be the No. 7 seed in the NBA first round, and that the Wizards (should they beat the weakened Celtics in the play-in round’s final East game) will ultimately be the No. 8 seed.

Given that the Wizards have Bradley Beal and Russell Westbrook in a playoff series, one could make the argument that it will be better to be the No. 2 seed in the East — drawing the younger, less proven Hornets in the first round — than the No. 1 seed, which will have to contend with Beal and Russ. Any worries about playing a motivated Celtics team in the first round just decreased sharply.