Cedric Maxwell thinks that in the more physical NBA of the 1980s, the Golden State Warriors would only be a playoff team and not a champion.
BOSTON – When it comes to the playoffs, it’s always a good idea to have as many contingency plans as possible.
For the Milwaukee Bucks, that means making sure they are prepared to see Marcus Smart make his series debut tonight.
The 6-foot-4 guard has been given clearance to potentially play in tonight’s pivotal Game 5 matchup.
As much as Smart and the Celtics would love for him to be on the floor tonight, Brad Stevens cautions that his return tonight is not a given.
“He still has to go through some things later this morning after our shootaround, and then we’ll see how he feels after that,” Stevens told reporters. “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.”
Regardless of how those tests go, the Bucks are approaching Game 5 as if Smart will be on the floor at some point.
And while he hasn’t played in more than a month, the Bucks are well aware of how impactful a potential return by Smart can be.
Khris Middleton is one of the Bucks players who'll see plenty of Smart.
“He’s a competitor,” Middleton told NBC Sports Boston. “He goes hard. He’s a crafty player, a smart player. Great defensive player. So, you’ve just gotta be smart with him. He’s a guy that can make plays with the ball in his hands and knock down some big shots. Just gotta do a great job of trying to contain him if he plays tonight. We’ve just gotta be aware of him on the defensive side.”
Milwaukee interim coach Joe Prunty acknowledged Smart is indeed on the scouting report for tonight’s game.
“We know how he plays. We know how he plays within their system,” Prunty said. “He’ll definitely add an element for them. If he does play, we’re prepared for that.”
A potential Smart return comes at a time when the Celtics’ defense, which came into the postseason with a league-best defensive rating of 101.5, has actually been among the worst defenses in the playoffs.
Boston’s has had a defensive rating of 99.1 when Smart has played.
And while there’s no telling if Smart in the lineup will make that big a difference to the team’s defense against the Bucks, there’s no denying Smart playing tonight will provide a much-needed boost for Boston.
“He does a good job for them at both ends of the floor, by defending and on offense, moving the ball, facilitate a lot on the offensive end for them,” said Milwaukee’s Thon Maker. “With us, we have to find a way to match his energy if he does play tonight.”
Even though Smart hasn’t played in a competitive game in more than a month, the Bucks have every intention of going at him as though he had played in every game of this series.
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“He’s still been working,” Middleton said. “You can’t disrespect him just because he hasn’t played in a while. You have to play him like he’s been playing all year long or this whole series, which is, get after him some too.”