Hawks’ Josh Smith is expecting to play
Watching Game 3 frustrated forward
After sitting on the bench in Game 3, watching his team take the Celtics to overtime, watching it unable to finish off Boston, Josh Smith did not sound like a man who wants to do that again.
Smith, who missed Friday’s game with a left knee injury, said Saturday there is very little that could keep him out of Game 4 Sunday.
“I’m probably going to play regardless of how it feels because I know the importance of this game,’’ Smith said. “I know that we have something special on this team.’’
He spent Friday night wondering how the game might go differently with him in. He kept seeing spots where he could help, especially down the stretch. But there was nothing he could do.
Except make it back for Game 4.
“We could do special things because we’re a deep team,’’ Smith said. “That tells you what we did yesterday. Any other team with three guys that played major minutes are out, they tend to struggle. But we were right there, almost about to win the basketball game.
“I think, with my help, it should help us get over the hump tomorrow.’’
Smith planned to rest the knee Saturday, then practice harder than usual at Sunday’s shootaround to determine the health of the knee. He said that walking, running, and cutting were not troubling him too badly, though the real issues seemed to come when he attempted to explode off the leg.
The decision will come after the shootaround, though it didn’t sound like there was much that would dissuade Smith.
“I think some players just have a higher tolerance for pain,’’ said coach Larry Drew. “If medically they can’t go, they can’t go. But if it’s a situation where guys can play in pain - like I said, this kid is as tough as they come. If there’s anybody that will push the envelope in that situation, it’ll be him.
“If he can play, I know he’s going to be out there, wants to be out there. But if he can’t play, certainly we totally understand that.’’
Asked what could keep him off the court, Smith said, “If I fall down an escalator and reinjure something.’’
That possibility aside, it appears the Hawks could get a much-needed injection of talent in their attempt to even the series before the teams head back to Atlanta for Game 5.
If Smith is able to play, there is still the question of whether Drew would limit the minutes of the power forward. Smith doesn’t think that would be the case.
“I’m in it to win it,’’ Smith said. “I’m pretty sure when that adrenaline gets to kicking in with the coach, he’s not going to be paying attention to the minutes played. He’s going to want to win that game.’’
The Hawks were still lamenting their play against Rajon Rondo. After containing him fairly well in the first half, they didn’t at all in the second.
“He penetrated on us time and time again during regulation and then in overtime,’’ Drew said. “We just have to do a better job on him. If we allow him to get to that paint area the way we did, then this series is going to be a lot shorter than what we want it to be.’’
Asked what they need to do better in Game 4, Tracy McGrady said, “I think the main thing we have to do, we’ve got to contain Rondo. He was dissecting our defense.
“When he got into the paint, it was a layup or we helped and he kicked out to the open shooter. So I think we’ve just got to do a better job of keeping him out of the paint and keeping him contained.’’
Lost in transition
One thing the Hawks coaching staff focused in on after Game 3 was the team’s difficulty with transition defense. “Defensively, we had just too many breakdowns and then defensively in transition we did not do a good job,’’ Drew said. “Just in charting what we gave up transition-wise, we didn’t do a good job. That’s going to be the point of emphasis this morning - our transition defense, and then looking at the miscues we had defensively where we broke down.’’ . . . McGrady injured his ankle in Game 3, but he said it was a mild sprain and he expected to be fine for Sunday’s game.