BOSTON (CBS) — With their playoff series with the Milwaukee Bucks now tied at 2-2, the Boston Celtics could use any reinforcements they can get.
The good news is they may get their best defender back for Thursday night’s Game 6.
Boston guard Marcus Smart, out since tearing a tendon in his right thumb back on March 11, could be cleared to return to game action after a visit to a New York doctor on Tuesday. If cleared, Smart anticipates being in the Boston lineup when either the Celtics or Bucks will be looking to clinch the series on Thursday night.
“Right now that’s the plan,” Smart told reporters ahead of Sunday’s Game 4 in Milwaukee. “We’re still on the same track. I’ve been doing everything but contact, so once I get the [go-ahead] and start doing contact, I’m ready for game action.”
Smart said his thumb is holding up well after the surgery and he feels ready to return. He’ll likely have to wear a small brace when he does hit the floor again, which he’s been dying to do now that the postseason has arrived.
“It’s the playoffs, so any game around this time is going to get you antsy,” he said. “Especially when you come into an atmosphere like this and the outcome that happened [Friday] night wasn’t up to par to what we expect.”
After taking the first two games of the series in Boston, the Celtics dropped both games in Milwaukee. They’ve also let the Bucks hit the century mark in all four games, so the Celtics could certainly use Smart’s defensive prowess on the court. His return will give Brad Stevens another plus-defender to throw at the likes of Khris Middelton and Malcolm Brogdon (and potentially even on Giannis Antetokounmpo). Middleton has been having his way with Jaylen Brown so far this series, averaging 25.5 points on 61.5 percent shooting, and Smart could be an X-factor in that matchup. In his three regular season games against the Bucks, Smart had a defensive rating of 99.1.
Things have gotten a whole lot more interesting, and chippy, between the Celtics and Bucks over the last two games. The addition of Smart to the Boston lineup should only increase both of those.