BOSTON – Once considered a long shot to return by Game 7 of Boston’s first-round series with the Milwaukee Bucks, Marcus Smart may be on the floor as soon as Tuesday night's Game 5 matchup.
Celtics head coach Brad Stevens said there was no update on Smart following the team’s practice on Monday, but the team has since upgraded Smart's status to “questionable” for Game 5 – the first time he has been listed as anything other than “out” since he had his right thumb surgically repaired last month.
In the past couple of weeks, Smart has increased his workload and made it clear that he was inching closer to getting back on the floor possibly ahead of schedule.
Prior to Boston’s Game 4 loss, Smart discussed his potential return.
“I feel ready, I feel strong enough to get back out there,” Smart said at the time. “I’m just waiting for the OK.”
It appears his most recent visit to the doctor went as planned with Smart now likely cleared to practice – and with that clearance, available to play.
The return of Smart would be a huge plus for a Celtics team that has struggled mightily in this first-round series against Milwaukee from a defensive standpoint.
During the regular season, Boston had a league-best defensive rating of 101.5. But against the Bucks, Boston’s defense has slipped to second-to-last among playoff teams which has heavily factored into the series now being tied at two games apiece.
You can count Boston's Jaylen Brown among the Celtics eager to get Smart back into the fold.
“When he gets in there he changes the whole game on defense,” Brown said. “He’s definitely missed so when he comes back that’ll make a lot of our jobs a whole lot easier.”
Stevens had similar sentiments about Smart.
“Marcus is one of our most reliable players for the last four years,” Stevens said. “No question Marcus as been a huge part of us.”
Smart has appeared in 54 games for the Celtics this season, averaging 10.2 points, 4.8 assists and 3.5 rebounds while playing 29.9 minutes per game.