It turns out the injury Marcus Smart suffered Sunday night vs. the Magic is a serious one.
The Celtics guard has a torn oblique on his left side and could miss the first two rounds of the NBA playoffs.
That information was first reported by ESPN's Adrian Wojnarowski and has been confirmed by NBC Sports Boston, according to league sources.
Later Wednesday, the Celtics released a statement on the injury, calling it a "partial avulsion of his left oblique abdominal muscle off of his iliac crest.”
The news comes as a bombshell after the Celtics expressed optimism in the immediate aftermath of the injury that it was merely a bruise that might allow Smart to return near the start of the first-round matchup against the Indiana Pacers.
A league source said it’s unclear if it should be termed a tear, but acknowledged that there is a chance that Smart could be sidelined beyond the first round.
C's coach Brad Stevens originally told reporters that Smart suffered an oblique bruise and would be day-to-day.
In his weekly appearance on Boston sports radio’s 98.5 the Sports Hub’s “Toucher and Rich” program on Wednesday morning, Celtics president of basketball operations Danny Ainge said Smart was feeling “much better” and added, "I feel like he’s going to be OK, just because it’s Marcus.”
Still, Smart was unable to get on the court the past two days as the Celtics waited for him to test the injury. In fact, the pain of his injury left him unable to sit still enough for the MRI, according to sources.
The Celtics were still gathering information on the injury prognosis on Wednesday night with the hope that the timetable might not be as daunting but were braced for the possibility that Smart might not be available for the first two rounds, according to sources. A 4-6 week recovery timeline from Smart’s injury puts him somewhere from May 5-19. The conference semifinals are scheduled to begin April 29-30 and conference finals on May 14-15.
Smart missed the first four games of a first-round series against the Milwaukee Bucks last year but returned from a hand injury to give the team a jolt that helped it win the series in seven games. Boston played last year in the playoffs without Kyrie Irving and Gordon Hayward.
This year, the Celtics can elevate Jaylen Brown or Hayward to a starting role and both have played well late in the season. Still, there’s no player on the roster that can quite match Smart’s defensive tenacity or, maybe more important, his overall grit. Smart makes all the hustle plays that can sometimes make the difference in playoff series, as last year’s series win over the Bucks proved.
Fresh off signing a four-year, $52 million extension last summer, Smart produced one of his most efficient seasons, including shooting a career-best 36.4 percent beyond the 3-point arc. Smart elevated to a starting role in late November and never relinquished the role with Irving often expressing an appreciation for playing alongside Smart in Boston’s backcourt.
NBC Sports Boston's Justin Leger contributed to this story.
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