Celtics

Celtics: Smart to be sidelined six to eight weeks

Celtics: Smart to be sidelined six to eight weeks

BOSTON – Marcus Smart is out for the remainder of the regular season, but there’s a very good chance he’ll be available at some point in the Boston Celtics' postseason quest. 
 
The 6-foot-4 guard underwent successful surgery to repair a torn ulnar collateral ligament in his right thumb which is expected to keep him sidelined for six to eight weeks. 

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“It’s a tough deal for Marcus,” coach Brad Stevens told reporters prior to tonight’s game. “Marcus has been an incredible player for us all year. He’s meant a lot to us.”
 
If we’re working from today, that would put Smart’s return to the floor most likely near the end of the first round or early in the second.
 
While Smart’s statistics don’t jump off the page, there’s no getting around the impact he has made on this team this season. 
 
After missing several games after punching a picture frame in Los Angeles, the Celtics struggled in his absence. Upon his return right after the All-Star break, the C's began playing some of their best basketball of the season. 
 
But as important as Smart has been to the team this season, Boston has been a “Next Man Up” squad all season, so the Celtics are well-versed on how to make up for the loss of key players. 
 
Look for extended minutes going forward for Terry Rozier and Abdel Nader, two of the team’s healthier perimeter players. 
 
Boston’s Semi Ojeleye is likely to see his role increase as well with Smart out as well as Daniel Theis who recently underwent season-ending surgery on his torn meniscus injury suffered in Boston’s 99-97 loss to Indiana. 

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“We’re going to be in the process of really looking at ourselves and redistribute responsibility on our team without guys going outside of what they do best,” Stevens said. 
 
Smart appeared in 54 games this season, averaging 10.2 points, 4.8 assists and 3.5 rebounds per game. He has a defensive rating of 99.6 which ranks fifth in the league among players who averaged at least 28 minutes played per game.

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6 ways Celtics benefit from Marcus Smart's return for Game 6

6 ways Celtics benefit from Marcus Smart's return for Game 6

MILWAUKEE – With a possible Game 6 return for Marcus Smart, there’s no question that would be a good thing for the Boston Celtics. 

Well, here are six ways having Smart back in the lineup can help aid Boston which is currently tied at two games apiece with the Bucks. 

Defensive versatility: At 6-foot-4 with a strong build, Marcus Smart gives Boston another body to throw at Giannis Antetokounmpo and Khris Middleton, the two players who have given the Celtics the biggest problems thus far in this series.

Additional ball-handler: The Milwaukee Bucks have tried to mix up their pressure defensively with an occasional full-court press of the Celtics. Smart is a combo guard who has shown tremendous growth this season as a floor leader with the ability to impact the game both as a scorer and facilitator.

Leadership: As the most tenured member of the roster, Marcus Smart has a high love of respect from his teammates. Not only because of his seniority with the franchise, but also because of the way he plays the game and his teammate’s understanding of how much he means to Boston when it comes to winning.

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Increased roster depth: Injuries devastated the Celtics’ roster heading into the playoffs. So a return of Smart would give Boston 12 healthy bodies. It may not seem like that big a deal. But as we’ve seen with this series, every available body matters when it comes to finding a pathway toward the second round of the playoffs for these teams.

Less pressure on Rozier: The first two games of this series really put a positive spotlight on Terry Rozier. The last two games, both losses for Boston, have featured Rozier struggling at both ends of the floor. Having Smart back would lighten Rozier’s plate some and in doing so, could better position him to be closer to the game-changing, difference-maker we saw in Games 1 and 2.

Playbook expansion: Having Marcus Smart back in the lineup gives head coach Brad Stevens a lot more options at both ends of the floor, which could be just what the Celtics need to limit Milwaukee’s 1-2 punch of Giannis Antetokounmpo and Khris Middleton, as well as the Bucks bench which has been the better unit of two, in Games 3 and 4.

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Marcus Smart says he's 'strong enough to get back out there'

Marcus Smart says he's 'strong enough to get back out there'

MILWAUKEE – With Boston’s 104-102 Game 3 loss to Milwaukee, the Celtics are guaranteed a return trip to Milwaukee for Game 6 later this week.

At that point in the series, both team’s depth will be an issue.

Boston’s depth hasn’t been great, but it potentially could be better if Marcus Smart is cleared to play following a right thumb injury suffered last month.

The 6-foot-4 guard will have a check-up on Tuesday and if he’s cleared to resume practicing with the team, that would pave the way for him to be available to play in Game 6 on Thursday.

“That’s the plan. We’re still on the same track,” Smart said.

Smart has been working diligently with the training staff since he had his right thumb surgically repaired last month.

“I feel ready, I feel strong enough to get back out there,” Smart said. “I’m just waiting for the OK.”

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In the meantime, Smart has been walking around with one type of splint to help insure that he doesn’t accidentally bump his thumb and potentially do damage to it. That splint is different than the one he will play with upon getting cleared to return to action. While the idea of playing with a splint may not seem ideal, Smart said he’s comfortable shooting with it.

Before playoff games 2, 3 and 4 of this series with Boston, Smart has been on the floor prior to the game working on his perimeter shooting, dribble-drive, pull-ups, free throws and pretty much anything he does shooting-wise during a game. Smart has also worked on his conditioning, lateral quickness drills and other work to help strengthen his core, all done with him returning sooner rather than later. 

But ultimately, it is Smart's comfort level with his right hand and the splint that he'll play with, that will determine what kind of impact one can expect once he returns to action. 

“It feels like it’s nothing there,” Smart said of playing with the splint. “To have that comfortability in my dominant hand, my shooting hand, that’s a good feeling to have.”

Smart, who has distinguished himself as Boston’s top perimeter defender, has appeared in 54 games for the Celtics this season. The fourth-year guard averaged 10.2 points, 4.8 assists and 3.5 rebounds this season while playing 29.9 minutes per game.

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