Celtics

Marcus Smart ready for Clippers: 'These are the games I live for'

Marcus Smart ready for Clippers: 'These are the games I live for'

LOS ANGELES — Marcus Smart, clad in a Versace robe as has become the custom at recent road shootarounds, plopped into a chair courtside at Staples Center and immediately declared himself ready to play not only on Wednesday night against the Clippers but the rest of the team’s trip out west.

Not that there was ever much doubt. Even as coach Brad Stevens asserted a few feet away that the team would never put Smart out there if he was at risk to further aggravate any of his maladies — but especially the right ankle he sprained on Monday in Phoenix — you just kinda knew Smart was going to duct tape himself together for Wednesday’s showdown.

After all, Smart knows no other way. So despite the fact that, just on this trip, he’s dealt with a bruised hip, two sprained fingers, and the non-contact ankle injury that looked scary when it happened, Smart plans to go full throttle versus the Clippers.

Smart did not hide from the fact that playing against what many believe is the favorite to win the NBA title, with the chance that Kawhi Leonard and Paul George will play together for the first time this season, gave him extra motivation to be on the court.

"That was really actually one of the main reasons, because of who we are playing. And me being the competitor that I am, I want to be out there,” said Smart. “Obviously, if it was serious enough, obviously I'd shut it down because it is so early, but, like I said, it's not as serious. It's a minor sprain, but nothing crazy, so I'm able to still play. 

"And that's what I want to do.”

Smart then spent some time gushing about fellow defensive bulldog Patrick Beverley, nothing his respect level for him is “through the roof.” Smart knows Wednesday’s showdown could be exactly his type of game.

“These are the types of games I live for,” said Smart. "You’re just going in and being as physical as you can but smart at the same time. But you've got to grind, you've got to work, and it's not going to be pretty. And those are the type of games I like to play in.”

Celtics coach Brad Stevens said he leans on the direction of trainers in instances like this.

"First of all, [Smart is] tough and everybody knows he’s tough. But, secondly, we’re not going to put him out there if we thought — if there’s risk there,” said Stevens. "Our [trainers] feel good about — it didn’t swell, looks good, it may just be one of those lucky deals on a fall where it’s not as bad as it looks. But there’s no questioning Marcus’s toughness but, at the same time, we’re not just going to let him go out and play if there’s any long-term ramifications.”

Smart, who came onto the court a little later than most of his teammates, offered a positive report on testing the ankle earlier in the day, leading to this scene before shootaround:

Smart: “Ankle's feeling fine. A little soreness, but we tested it -- running, jumping, cutting — everything came out OK. It felt great, so …” 

Jaylen Brown (seated next to Smart, loudly): “Man, he’s a'ight.” 

Smart: "Yeah, what Jaylen said.”

The Celtics listed Smart as probable Tuesday and Smart said he’s confident in the ankle. He has no plans to throttle down.

"I was just born and raised and always a true believer of whatever is meant to happen on the court is going to happen, you know?” said Smart. "When you start going out there and trying to prevent it from happening or prevent an injury or anything like that, that's when you get injured. Instead of just going out there and playing and let whatever happens happen."

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Don’t miss NBC Sports Boston's coverage of Celtics-Clippers, which tips off Wednesday at 9 p.m. ET with Celtics Pregame Live, then Mike & Scal have the call of the game at 10 p.m. You can also stream the game through the MyTeams App.

Boston Celtics vs. Cleveland Cavaliers live stream: Watch NBA game online

Boston Celtics vs. Cleveland Cavaliers live stream: Watch NBA game online

Exactly one month after breaking his hand against the Spurs, Gordon Hayward could make his return to the Celtics lineup Monday night when the C's wrap up a three-game homestand against the Cavaliers. 

Hayward had surgery exactly four weeks ago, and after the procedure, his announced timetable was "up to six weeks," so a potential return to the lineup Monday would be a best-case scenario for the C's.

Boston has fared well in Hayward's absence, going 9-4 in 13 games (after going 7-1 in eight games with Hayward). Other players have stepped up with Hayward out, with Kemba Walker, Jaylen Brown, and Jayson Tatum all averaging at least 20 points per game this season.

While Hayward might return, Marcus Smart is dealing with yet another health setback, as he's doubtful to play thanks to an eye infection. Robert Williams has already been ruled out with a sore left hip.

Be sure to tune into NBC Sports Boston for Celtics Pregame Live at 7 p.m. ET, followed by the game at 7:30 p.m. ET or stream it via the MyTeams app. 

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BEFORE THE GAME: At 7 p.m., Celtics Pregame Live presented by TD Bank gets you ready for the game with reports from Kyle Draper, Brian ScalabrineMike Gorman, Tommy Heinsohn, A. Sherrod Blakely, Chris Forsberg, and Abby Chin. Watch on NBC Sports Boston or click here for the live stream.

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Celtics vs. Cavs odds: Best NBA picks, predictions as Gordon Hayward eyes return

Celtics vs. Cavs odds: Best NBA picks, predictions as Gordon Hayward eyes return

The Boston Celtics' Christmas present apparently will be delivered early.

Gordon Hayward participated in a shootaround Monday morning and is on track to play against the Cleveland Cavaliers, per the team.

Hayward was expected to be sidelined until Christmas with a fractured hand but is well ahead of schedule, and should give an added boost to a Celtics team that's won five of its last six games.

Can the Celtics keep it rolling against the free-falling Cavs and cover their largest spread of the season? Here are our betting predictions for Celtics-Cavs, as well as two NBA locks against the spread.

(All odds provided by WestGate Superbook.)

Cleveland Cavaliers at Boston Celtics, 7:30 p.m. ET

Don't miss NBC Sports Boston's coverage of Celtics-Cavaliers, which tips off Monday at 7 p.m. with Celtics Pregame Live, and then Mike & Tommy have the call at 7:30 p.m. You can also stream the game on the MyTeams App.

Moneyline: The Celtics (-1600) are massive favorites, and with good reason. The Cavs have lost 12 of their last 13 and are in full-on tank mode after a 47-point defeat to the Philadelphia 76ers. No reason to get cute here.

Point Spread: Am I wary of the Celtics being double-digit favorites after all the times they've played down to their competition this season? Yes. But the Cavs have completely mailed it in and are 2-10 against the spread in their last 12 games. Hayward's return inspires a Celtics (-14) rout.

Point Total: Boston should light up a Cleveland defense that just allowed 141 points to the Philadelphia 76ers. The question is whether the Cavs can hold up their end of the bargain. Considering the over has hit in four of these teams' last five matchups and Marcus Smart (eye infection) may not play, I'll take the OVER on the 216 total.

Darren's record picking the Celtics' moneyline, point spread and point total: 30-20-1

NBA Locks of the Night

Orlando Magic (+11.5) at Milwaukee Bucks: The Bucks have won 14 in a row, but they're a pedestrian 12-11 against the spread this season. The Magic have won four in a row and are 4-1 against the spread in their last five road games, so I like them keeping this one in single digits.

Los Angeles Clippers (+2) at Indiana PacersKawhi Leonard won't play in this one and the Clippers have struggled on the road (4-6), but I don't trust a Pacers team that barely beat the New York Knicks and lost to the Detroit Pistons last Friday.

Darren's record picking NBA locks against the spread: 18-15-1