After being sidelined for four weeks with a partially torn oblique muscle, Celtics shooting guard Marcus Smart could make his return Monday night in Game 4 of his team’s second-round playoff series against the Milwaukee Bucks.
Smart, who is officially listed as questionable, played 3-on-3 — but not 5-on-5 — after being cleared for contact on Saturday. He noted that his body “responded really well” to hits to his left hip area and that he even felt fine after taking an accidental charge. Smart also said he was able to fully participate in practice on Sunday because it was “real light.”
“The boxes have been checked, and I’m taking it one day at a time, but I’m definitely in the right position and the right progression stage to where I’m getting really close to coming back,” he told reporters after practice at the Auerbach Center.
Coach Brad Stevens said Smart’s availability for Game 4 is up to Smart and the training staff. Smart didn’t commit one way or the other, as it sounds like his status is completely contingent on how he feels on Monday. The Celtics are not scheduled to have a morning shootaround before the 7 p.m. tip-off.
“If I’m in pain in any kind of way, then it’s definitely a no,” Smart said.
If Smart is active, he will probably be wearing some sort of padding.
“I stopped wearing my pads a long time ago, but I think I’m going to have to put them back on again to protect myself,” he said.
Stevens said Smart will likely be used in four- to five-minute bursts. Prior to the injury, the 25-year-old averaged 28.9 minutes as a member of the starting lineup.
“Whenever he becomes available, he’s a guy that can impact the game whether it’s for a couple minutes or a long time,” Stevens said. “We’ll certainly utilize him, and we’ll be happy when we get him back.”
Smart said he hopes to contribute via his energy and play-making ability. His defensive tenacity will certainly offer a boost, while his ball-handling skills will allow for point guards Kyrie Irving and Terry Rozier to operate as off-ball threats.
“It’s exciting,” Irving said. “He’s a big part of our team. It alleviates a lot of different pressure out there throughout the game, makes my job a lot easier. Whenever you have the possibility of him returning, it’s always a positive.”