Boston Celtics

Celtics may get Marcus Smart back at perfect time

Marcus Smart hasn’t played yet this postseason, but he may be coming back for the Boston Celtics at just the right time.

With Game 4 against the Milwaukee Bucks coming Monday night, the Boston Celtis announced guard Marcus Smart practiced on Sunday and has been cleared for full contact. Smart added he is hopeful to play Monday night, but wants to see how his body reacts to practice.

Smart has been sidelined since April 7 by a torn oblique, and has obviously not yet played in these playoffs. He was initially expected to miss four to six weeks, encompassing  the first two rounds of any Celtics’ playoff run.

Smart’s numbers don’t stand out, as he averaged 8.9 points, 4.0 assists, 2.9 rebounds and 1.8 steals per game during the regular season (80 games-60 starts). But he set a career-high by making 36.4 percent from beyond the arc this season, and he’s a tenacious and versatile defender.

In a decisive Game 1 win against Milwaukee, the Celtics offered a clinic on how to defend Giannis Antetokounmpo. They walled off the paint for “The Greek Freak”, holding him to 7-for-21 from the floor as his Bucks’ teammates struggled to pick up any slack.

But over the last two games of the series, Antetokounmpo is 15-for-28 from the floor as Khris Middleton has put up at least 20 points in both contests. Eric Bledsoe struggled in Game 1 and Game 3, with only five shot attempts in Game 1, but he had a 21-point outing in Game 2, a sign of life, and has at least been more aggressive over the last two games (27 field goal attempts).

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Apart from any on-court contribution he can offer, Smart carries some intangible value for the Celtics. As they look to avoid a difficult 3-1 deficit in Game 4 at home, just the idea he might be available Monday night could be a decisive push in Boston’s favor before the series heads back to Milwaukee.

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