BOSTON -- The Boston Celtics will be as complete as we’ve seen them in the playoffs with the return of Marcus Smart to the lineup.
Smart, out since April 7 with a torn oblique injury suffered against Orlando, will be available to play tonight in a pivotal Game 4 matchup against the Milwaukee Bucks.
“He will be available to play short stints,” said Celtics head coach Brad Stevens of Smart.
This will be the second straight year that Smart has returned from an injury in the playoffs with the Bucks awaiting him.
Smart was cleared for contact on Saturday and went through some 3-on-3 and 5-on-5 drills which included him taking a charge and suffering a blow to that oblique region.
After the hit, Smart said he felt fine.
Boston forward Semi Ojeleye was among those to watch Smart during his return to contact on Saturday, and liked what he saw.
“He looked great,” Ojeleye told NBC Sports Boston on Sunday. “He looks like he's ready to go.”
In addition to his defense, Ojeleye said Smart brings more than just his talent to the floor.
“He brings so much emotion to the game, something we've been missing,“ Ojeleye said.
Smart’s return comes four weeks and a day removed from the injury which was initially supposed to keep him out 4-6 weeks with head coach Brad Stevens anticipating his return would be closer to the six-week window.
Fortunately for the Celtics, Smart’s recovery was quicker than expected.
The 6-foot-4 Smart has been a defensive fixture for the Celtics, one of the league’s top defensive teams.
And while Boston showed no signs of defensive slippage in their first-round series against Indiana Pacers which ended in just four games, Smart’s absence has become noticeable in Boston’s struggles against the top-seeded Milwaukee Bucks who hold a 2-1 series lead going into tonight’s game.
Smart appeared in a career-high 80 games this season, averaging 8.9 points while shooting career-bests from the field (42.2 percent) and from 3-point range (36.4) while still playing at an all-NBA level defensively.
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