The Boston Celtics may start the Eastern Conference finals against the Miami Heat without defensive stalwart Marcus Smart. The Celtics announced Monday afternoon that Smart suffered a mid-foot sprain in Sunday’s Game 7 against the Milwaukee Bucks in the previous round, and that he’s listed as questionable for Game 1 in Miami on Tuesday.
Smart underwent an MRI on Monday on his right foot and the imaging returned clean, per ESPN, which is encouraging news for the Celtics in the long term. But if he’s unable to suit up for Game 1, then it’ll be detrimental in how Boston guards Jimmy Butler, who Smart would likely match up against.
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“Yea he’s still pretty sore,” Celtics coach Ime Udoka said Tuesday. “He tested out a little bit here and we’re hoping he’s feeling better, but there’s some soreness here, some swelling still, and we’ll monitor him throughout the day, get some treatment, and he’ll still be listed as questionable.”
Smart, who was named the NBA‘s Defensive Player of the Year a few weeks ago, was integral to Boston’s win over the Bucks in the second round of the playoffs. In Game 6, he put up 21 points, seven rebounds and five assists, while being a pest defensively to help extend the series for the Celtics. He followed that up with an 11-point, 10-assist, seven-rebound performance in Game 7, and finished the game a plus-18. Smart’s defense is the glue that helps keep Boston’s defense together, and though he doesn’t put up monster numbers on offense, his passing is a necessity for the Celtics. He helps keep the ball moving if Boston gets too stagnant, and does a great job of putting his teammates in a position to get a good look. His 39.4 percent mark from 3-point range was also an additional weapon the Celtics used against the Bucks.
Right now there’s hope that Smart can suit up for Game 1, per ESPN, and it may be a game-time decision based on how he feels going through warmups. But if he has to sit out, it will put more responsibility on the shoulders of guys like Jayson Tatum, Jaylen Brown and others to step up defensively.