ATLANTA - There were mostly unknowns surrounding Hawks forward Josh Smith’s left knee sprain after Tuesday night’s 87-80 loss to the Celtics at Philips Arena. With 4 minutes and 20 seconds to go in the fourth quarter, Smith left the game, having injured the knee while on the court.
“I don’t know much about [Smith],’’ Hawks coach Larry Drew said. “We’ll know more after he’s examined.’’
Smith will be reevaluated Wednesday in Atlanta, with the Hawks not set to fly to Boston until Thursday afternoon for Friday’s Game 3.
“He is one of our go-to guys down the stretch,’’ Drew said. “We were missing all of the things that he brings to the table for us, especially down low. We tried to play small to match up to them and try to open up the floor a little bit, but we didn’t have that low-post presence that we needed.’’
When Smith left the game, the Hawks were down by just 2 points, with a chance to come back and save home-court advantage. But 21 seconds later, Paul Pierce threw down a dunk, and the Celtics went on to beat the Hawks.
His teammates didn’t seem to know much more than Drew after the game - not how the injury occurred or how Smith was doing. According to a Hawks spokesman, Smith walked out of the building. Smith did not address the media after the game.
The forward had 16 points on 8-of-21 shooting, 12 rebounds, and 5 assists in 37 minutes.
“It was tough, ’cause he’s one of our go-to players,’’ Jeff Teague said. “It was a little different out there. We didn’t really have any flow. But when one person goes down, someone has to step up.’’
A pressure point
The Hawks certainly have seen Avery Bradley score, the guard having dropped 28 points on them in the teams’ last regular-season meeting. But to counter him (and the Celtics) in Game 2, Atlanta had one thing in mind: pressure.
“Just get up, pressure the ball, make it hard for them to get into their sets,’’ Smith said before the game. “We have to cut Bradley’s water off early, can’t let him get confidence early. Because when he plays with confidence, he’s a tough player to guard.’’
And how did they plan to do that?
“Do what he does to us,’’ Smith said. “He’s one of the great defenders in this league at a young age. See if he likes it a little bit, picking him up full-court, turning him a little bit, and making it hard for him to initiate the offense for them.’’
Bradley finished with 14 points in 42 minutes.
Hole at center
The Hawks’ top two centers, Zaza Pachulia and Al Horford, remained out for Game 2. There is a chance that Pachulia could return in this series . . . Smith recalled his inexperience in his first trip to the playoffs back in 2008, and said the Hawks are trying to prey on the inexperience of some Celtics, such as Bradley and Greg Stiemsma. “I know how inexperienced I was my first time around,’’ said Smith. “I was just playing like a wild man, not knowing what I was expecting, just going out there and playing. Gained experience as it went along. They’re slowly but surely gaining experience, but when you have a couple, two, three postseasons under your belt, you really understand and know the importance of it.’’Amalie Benjamin can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org. Follow her on Twitter @amaliebenjamin.