Celtics

Smart puts up shots prior to Celtics-Bucks Game 1

Smart puts up shots prior to Celtics-Bucks Game 1

BOSTON – It was a sight few expected to see on the eve of Boston’s Game 1 matchup with the Milwaukee Bucks – Marcus Smart, on the floor, getting shots. 

While he’s definitely out to start this playoff series, Sunday’s shooting display was a clear indication that Smart’s return is drawing near – potentially at some point in this series. 

The current timetable has him returning in time for a Game 7 matchup against the Bucks. 

But Smart is expected to meet with doctors within the next couple of weeks to get an updated timetable for a possible return. 

“We’re optimistic but we’re not going to rush anything,” Smart said. “I’ve got a check-up in the next two weeks. We’ll see what she says. If she clears us to start a little earlier, then we might. But right now Game 7 (of Bucks series) or second round.”

I asked Smart what is the biggest limitation he has now with the right thumb injury which has been surgically repaired. 

“Right now, it’s the muscle memory, being able to see how it affects throwing the ball, through contact. We’re just trying to ease our way in,” Smart said. “But I’ll pick things up here soon.”

Smart said he now has a smaller splint which helps keep the thumb from bending in a way that might result in it being re-injured.

“I’ll be playing with that when I come back, probably for a couple of months,” said Smart who added that Sunday was the first time he was on the floor shooting since suffering the thumb injury. 

Smart has been one of Boston’s more versatile players this season, showing the ability to defend multiple positions in addition to coming up with big plays in the clutch. 

The 6-foot-4 guard appeared in 54 games this season, averaging 10.2 points, 3.5 rebounds and a career-high 4.8 assists per game while shooting 36.7 percent from the field and 30.1 percent from 3-point range.

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NBA odds: Celtics' title chances rise as East playoff picture gets clearer

NBA odds: Celtics' title chances rise as East playoff picture gets clearer

The Boston Celtics needed a few days to find their bearings in the NBA bubble. But now that they're on the right track, they could be staying Orlando for a while.

The Celtics locked themselves into the Eastern Conference's No. 3 seed Sunday with a 122-119 overtime win over the Orlando Magic. The victory was their third in a row after routing the Brooklyn Nets and stomping the defending champion Toronto Raptors.

One of the Celtics' major rivals, meanwhile, is heading in the other direction. The Philadelphia 76ers just lost All-Star guard Ben Simmons to a knee injury that could sideline him the entire postseason and fell to the No. 6 seed in the East with Sunday's loss to the Portland Trail Blazers.

Don't miss NBC Sports Boston's coverage of Celtics-Grizzlies, which begins Tuesday at 4 p.m. with Celtics Pregame Live followed by tip-off at 5 p.m. You can also stream the game on the MyTeams App.

Both the Celtics and Sixers have three seeding games remaining, but as it stands now, they'd face each other in the first round of the NBA playoffs, a matchup that Boston actually might welcome with Simmons sidelined.

In short, things are looking up the C's -- and the sportsbooks have taken notice. Here are DraftKings Sportsbook's latest 2020 NBA championship odds as of Monday morning:

1. Milwaukee Bucks: +250
2. Los Angeles Lakers: +260
3. Los Angeles Clippers: +310
4. Toronto Raptors: +1000
5. Houston Rockets: +1300
6. Boston Celtics: +1600
7. Denver Nuggets: +2500
8. Miami Heat: +2500
9. Dallas Mavericks: +4000
10. Utah Jazz: +4000
All other teams have odds worse than +4000

The Celtics entered the bubble with +2000 odds to win the title but now sit at +1600, closely behind the Raptors and Rockets.

As for the Sixers? They also had +2000 odds prior to the seeding round but have plummeted outside the top 10 to +5000 after Simmons' injury.

The Bucks, Lakers and Clippers have long been the three most serious title contenders. The Celtics have held steady as a dark horse, though, and recent developments have strengthened their championship case: Kemba Walker has looked great while ramping up from a knee injury, while Jayson Tatum has shaken off some early rust to return to All-Star form.

Boston can take its foot off the gas during its final three seeding games with the No. 3 seed wrapped up. But once the postseason begins, it's full speed ahead toward Banner 18.

Celtics' Jayson Tatum shouts out Carmelo Anthony for hitting NBA milestone

Celtics' Jayson Tatum shouts out Carmelo Anthony for hitting NBA milestone

Jayson Tatum was five years old when Carmelo Anthony entered the NBA, so he literally grew up watching the All-Star forward.

Tatum always has admired Anthony's game, so after 'Melo made NBA history in the Portland Trail Blazers' 124-121 win over the Philadelphia 76ers on Sunday, the Boston Celtics forward had to show him love.

Here's Tatum's Twitter shout-out of Anthony after the 36-year-old moved to 15th on the NBA's all-time scoring list:

Anthony ironically passed Celtics legend Paul Pierce, who racked up 24,021 of his 26,397 career points in Boston.

Don't miss NBC Sports Boston's coverage of Celtics-Grizzlies, which begins Tuesday at 4 p.m. with Celtics Pregame Live followed by tip-off at 5 p.m. You can also stream the game on the MyTeams App.

Tatum called Anthony one of his "top three favorite players" after the Celtics and Blazers met earlier this season, so it's no wonder he was so excited to see the 36-year-old make history (even if it was at Pierce's expense).

Anthony respects Tatum's game, too: He admitted earlier this season he "loves" watching Tatum play and said the 22-year-old is "like a little brother to me."

Tatum might eye Pierce and Anthony on the all-time scoring list one day if he continues to play at a high level.