ATLANTA - With the Hawks already missing injured big men Al Horford and Zaza Pachulia, the team eagerly (and fearfully) awaited word Wednesday on the prognosis for power forward Josh Smith’s left knee, injured in Game 2.
Officially, Smith’s MRI revealed a strained tendon in his left knee and he is day to day, but the Atlanta Journal-Constitution reported that Smith has patellar tendinitis with inflammation in the area, making him doubtful for Game 3 in Boston Friday.
Smith limped off the court with four minutes left in the Game 2 loss. Hawks coach Larry Drew cited Smith’s absence as a major reason the team couldn’t finish the game out.
“I’m always concerned in these type of situations,’’ Drew said Wednesday, before results of the MRI were revealed. “I know Josh is a guy that if it’s just hurting, he’s going to play. He has that kind of toughness.
“But if it’s a situation where he absolutely, positively can’t play, then he won’t be out there. He’s just been so good for us. And certainly he’s a key component in order for us to have success.’’
Smith, who averaged 18.8 points and 9.6 rebounds in the regular season, has 38 points and 30 rebounds in the first two games of the series. He has not spoken to the media since being injured.
The situation is complicated by the injuries to Horford and Pachulia, who have missed the two games and are likely to miss more. Horford is recovering from a torn pectoral muscle and Pachulia is not yet out of a boot to protect his injured foot.
Drew did say the injury to Smith would not cause the Hawks to rush Horford or Pachulia back before they’re ready.
“Obviously, with both of your centers out, and now you’re looking at your starting power forward possibly being injured, [it’s difficult],’’ Drew said. “It’s been a situation where these type of things have been happening to us all year. We’ve kind of been snakebitten. But I’m hoping for the best.’’
If Smith can’t play Friday, it will likely result in smaller lineups and different strategies for the Hawks. Drew acknowledged the team would have to make adjustments to its game plan. The Hawks would lose a great deal of their rebounding ability, as well as their inside scoring.
“Certainly we’d have to tweak some things, we’d have to do some things a little bit different defensively,’’ Drew said. “Offensively, we’re certainly going to have to do some things. As far as posting up, he’s the one guy I’ve really been going through a lot. So we would have to tweak things quite a bit.’’
Jason Collins, who along with Ivan Johnson will be depended on more if Smith can’t go, said, “We’ve had a lot of bumps in the road this year. We’ve been able to overcome them all. This is just another one.’’
Marvin Williams said the team was trying to remain optimistic before getting the MRI results on Wednesday. He had seen Smith limping after Game 2, but also called him a “tough guy.’’
“He’s been kind of banged up,’’ Williams said of Smith’s regular season, in which he had played all 66 games. “But he’s been playing. He doesn’t like to miss games.’’
That doesn’t mean he won’t miss any. And this injury could be crushing, especially if it extends beyond Friday night’s game.
“I still think we have guys that are capable,’’ Drew said. “Certainly we would have to get some big games from certain guys, but I have all the confidence in the world if those guys aren’t there, that we can still win.’’