Marcus Smart missed Game 4 of the Eastern Conference finals against the Heat on Monday due to a sprained ankle. The Celtics guard suffered the injury early in Boston’s Game 3 loss to Miami and was helped off the court by two members of the team’s training staff.
He returned a few minutes later to a raucous TD Garden ovation and played the rest of the game, but he was partly running on adrenaline.
“Pretty swollen, but he’s a guy that plays through a lot so you can’t determine it based on how it looks,” coach Ime Udoka said before Smart was ruled out. “There’s mobility more than anything and he hasn’t done that yet. More so just trying to get the swelling and pain down . . . it is quite swollen.”
About an hour before tip-off, Smart was seen walking slowly through a hallway in the bowels of the arena wearing a team sweatsuit.
Derrick White started in Smart’s place on Monday. Center Robert Williams, who missed Game 3 because of knee soreness, was cleared to return.
“Improving every day,” Udoka said. “Extra day or two of rest, not playing obviously helps with him. Swelling is minimal. It comes and goes. Obviously you play a game and it kind of flares up a little bit at times, but it’s really a pain tolerance thing, and agility as well. Certain movements hurt it worse than others.”
Heat guard Tyler Herro, the NBA’s Sixth Man of the Year, missed Game 4 due to a groin strain, but forward Jimmy Butler, who sat out the second half of Game 3 due to knee soreness, was cleared to return.
Herro averaged 20.7 points, 5 rebounds, and 4 assists per game this year, but the Heat have actually been outscored by 8 points per 100 possessions with him on the court during the playoffs. With Herro out, veteran Victor Oladipo and New Hampshire native Duncan Robinson, who has fallen out of the rotation this postseason, were in line for larger roles.
White needs to see more red
White has had an uneven playoff run. He entered Monday just 1 for 6 from the field in this series with 3 points.
“I’m trying to be more aggressive,” White said. “I feel like the last game and a half I’ve just been real passive, so on both sides just be a little more aggressive, and create for myself and my teammates and try to help in any way.”
Udoka echoed that sentiment, saying he has encouraged White to be aggressive and confident.
“He’s a guy that does a lot for us besides just scoring the ball and so [when] the shots are there, take those,” he said. “A lot of times, if your shot is not falling, you tend to drive into the crowd a little bit and you still catch a mid-range and your floater, and those things that he does well.
“But as I said throughout the series or throughout the playoffs and since we got him here, it’s not just dependent on him scoring. Obviously defensively, he does what he does for us, keeps us versatile. And then offensively, getting into the lane . . . moves the ball and creates shots for others. Doesn’t always get the stats at times. Can make the hockey assist, and it’s not just really on him scoring, but we do want to be aggressive especially when the teams are going to load up off [Jayson Tatum and Jaylen Brown].”
Second time around for Smart
Smart was named the winner of the NBA’s Hustle Award, created in the 2016-17 season and based on an average compilation of nine hustle-based statistics. He also received the honor in 2018-19 and is its first two-time winner.
Smart ranked seventh in the league in charges drawn, 10th in loose balls recovered, 12th in deflections, 21st in offensive loose balls recovered, and 25th in defensive box outs, among other statistics.
Last month, he was named NBA’s Defensive Player of the Year, and last week he became a first team All-Defense selection for the third time.