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WALTHAM, Mass. – Marcus Smart was initially not expected to return from hand surgery until Game 6 or 7 of the first round, at the very earliest. However, thanks to his rapid-healing powers, Smart could be back in action as early as tonight for Game 5 against the Milwaukee Bucks.
Brad Stevens revealed this morning prior to shootaround that Smart had a reevaluation on his right thumb yesterday and it went as well as anyone could have hoped.
“He still has to go through some things later this morning after our shootaround, and then we’ll see how he feels after that,” said Stevens. “If he feels good, then he’s been cleared physically to go. If he has any pain or anything comes up, then we’ll hold him out.”
The possibility of Smart’s return brightened up the day for the C’s, who are looking to bounce back and gain a 3-2 lead in the series after dropping Games 3 and 4 in Milwaukee.
“It’s great news,” said Al Horford. “I think that with Marcus back, he just does a lot for our team. So, if he does feel good, that’s great for us.”
Smart has been sidelined since mid-March, after tearing the ulnar collateral ligament in his right thumb while diving for a loose ball against the Indiana Pacers.
Being restricted to the sideline has caused great mental agony for Smart, but his role as a fill-in assistant coach has been of great benefit for the Celtics in the meantime.
“It’s been very tough for him,” said Horford. “But he’s been great for our group. He’s always giving us his input, he’s there supporting us, and he’s staying in my ear about things I need to do on the floor, ways I can get open and just little things like that. He just sees the game so clear, so it’s always nice to have him around.”
As much as the C’s appreciated Smart’s coaching, they could certainly benefit more from having him back on the court. The C’s currently rank last in defensive rating among the remaining teams in the postseason and have also allowed the highest opponent field goal percentage and 3-point percentage.
Smart’s elite defensive versatility should be of aid Boston in all of those areas.
“It helps a lot,” said Horford. “We’ve been able to deal without him, but having him back makes us that much more versatile. He can guard multiple positions, he knows the positions, so there’s no question about it that he helps us a lot.”
With that being said, the C’s know that it could take some time for Smart to shake off the rust, having been absent from the court for an extended period. Still, his tenacious approach should be able to make an immediate positive effect.
“This is an opportunity for him to come in and do what he does best, and that is impact the game with his energy, his physicality, his savvy and his skill,” said Stevens. “He’s really excited to play, but at the same time, we’ll see how he feels. If he’s got any lingering effects at all after going 2-on-2 or 3-on-3 here in an hour or so, then we won’t play him.”
If Smart says he feels fine, however, then he will be good to go. And if that’s the case, the Celtics should have a major boost for Game 5.
“He brings that toughness, he brings that edge,” said backcourt mate Terry Rozier. “He’s got everybody on the same level – we want to play just how he plays. So, I’m excited if he’s playing tonight.”