Celtics guard Marcus Smart, who has been sidelined since suffering a thumb injury on March 11, has been medically cleared to return for Game 5 of the team’s opening-round playoff series against the Bucks on Tuesday night.
Coach Brad Stevens said Tuesday morning that Smart would still have to make it through the team’s shootaround practice without pain or issues, but all signs point toward Boston getting one of its leaders back for this critical matchup.
“One thing is he hasn’t played in a month and a half,’’ Stevens said. “So this is an opportunity to come in and do what he does best, and that’s impact the game with his energy, his physicality, his savvy and his skill. I think one of the things obviously when you’ve got a player of his caliber, he’s really excited to play. But at the same time we’ll see how he feels. Again, if he’s got any lingering effects at all after going a two-on-two or a three-on-three here in an hour or so, then we won’t play him.’’
Smart tore a tendon in his right thumb when diving for a loose ball in Boston’s March 11 game against the Pacers. He underwent surgery later that week and was expected to be sidelined 6-8 weeks. Last week Smart said that he was going to be evaluated by a hand specialist in New York on Tuesday, but that appointment was moved up to Monday, with the Celtics realizing there was an opportunity to get Smart back for this game.
This season Smart averaged 10.2 points, 4.8 rebounds and 3.5 assists for the Celtics, though much of his impact comes from physical, game-changing plays and cannot be measured in a box score. He is perhaps Boston’s best defender.
“It helps a lot,’’ forward Al Horford said. “He’s a huge part of our team. And obviously we’ve been able to deal without him, but having him back just makes us that much more versatile. He can guard multiple positions, he knows the positions. So there’s no question about it that he helps us a lot.’’