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Hawks notebook

Return centers on Smith’s pain threshold

Josh Smith’s aching left knee forced him out of Game 2 with 4:20 to play. Josh Smith’s aching left knee forced him out of Game 2 with 4:20 to play. (tami chappell/Reuters)
By Amalie Benjamin
Globe Staff / May 4, 2012
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ATLANTA - While Josh Smith has yet to practice since injuring his left knee in Game 2 Tuesday, the Hawks’ power forward has not yet ruled himself out for Friday’s Game 3 in Boston. That decision will be made after he tests the knee in the morning shootaround.

Coach Larry Drew said the decision to play - complicated because both of the Hawks’ centers are injured - rests entirely with Smith.

“He’s going to put the pressure on me, like that?’’ Smith said, laughing. “If it feels good, I’m going to go. I’m not one to harness injuries. I have a high threshold for pain. If I feel like I can go a little bit, I’m going to be able to step out on the court.’’

As of Thursday morning, Smith hadn’t run or tested the knee. He said he would probably try to go a bit harder than he usually does in shootaround to see how the knee fares.

“It feels better than it did previous, so it’s getting better and better each and every day,’’ Smith said.

“There’s been a lot of improvement. At first I really couldn’t walk on it, to now I’m being able to walk normally. Minus a little soreness, it feels OK.’’

Though Smith attempted to sneak past reporters at Philips Arena Thursday, walking by with his hood up, he seemed in relatively good spirits. He said he was more frustrated than anything Tuesday when he was forced to come out of a game in which the Hawks were down just 2 points with 4:20 to go.

“I know the importance of these games,’’ he said. “I tried to give it a go, but I just couldn’t go. That’s the most frustrating part, when you know the importance of the game, you know how important it is and your teammates need you out there.’’

Smith said he injured the knee on a box-out when Kevin Garnett “banged me.’’ When he drove to the basket later, said Smith, the knee gave out on him, which led to him leaving the court.

Smith has undergone treatment for a strained left tendon, though mostly the doctors have advised him to rest the knee. He has tried not to put pressure on it, or on himself, given the Hawks’ lack of big men.

“I understand how important this series is, more than one game,’’ he said. “I don’t want to go out there too early and risk getting injured more than I have.

“So I’m just going to keep taking it day by day, and hopefully it feels good tomorrow and I can lace them up.’’

Pachulia on the outs

Zaza Pachulia acknowledged for the first time Thursday that it is more than a sprained ankle that is keeping him out. That part has healed, but Pachulia said he also has a chipped bone in the foot, which is the real reason he has not been playing.

Pachulia said a foot specialist estimated he would be out 4-6 weeks. The four-week mark isn’t until next Friday, the day after a potential Game 6, which likely means that Pachulia is out for the entire first round.

“My foot is getting better, but I haven’t even tried to run or jump yet,’’ he said. “Doctors haven’t given me the clearance yet, so I’m just waiting.’’

The pain, he said, comes any time he tries to put pressure on the foot.

Forward thinking

If Smith is unable to go, Drew said, he might have to play Marvin Williams at forward more than normal. Tracy McGrady might also move to forward during some parts of the game, with the Hawks left with Ivan Johnson, Jason Collins, and Erick Dampier as their healthy big men. “We’re surely depleted at that position,’’ said Drew, “but we just have to try and get some production at the position as much as we can, knowing that we are playing guys out of position. So everybody else has to help everybody. We’ll be a little shorthanded.’’ . . . Collins was held out of Thursday’s practice because of a sore Achilles’ tendon. He is expected to be fine for Game 3 . . . Drew emphasized the Hawks have to pick up the pace in Game 3. “I just thought it was our inability to get into our sets that allowed the pressure to take us out of what we wanted to do,’’ said the coach. “It can’t happen, not in the playoffs. Obviously you have to be a little more selective with what you do, but you’ve got to do things harder, you’ve got to do things with pace. And the last three minutes of that third quarter going into that fourth quarter, we did not do that. We were just too slow with everything we did offensively, too lethargic, too methodical. They fed off that.’’

Amalie Benjamin can be reached at abenjamin@globe.com. Follow her on Twitter @amaliebenjamin.

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