WALTHAM — The swelling in Marcus Smart’s left ankle was so bad, the only way to get his shoe off was to take scissors to it.
“Seeing that, it kind of freaked me out a lot,” he said on Thursday.
When Smart rolled his ankle driving to the basket in the Celtics’ win over the Pacers Nov. 7, no one was sure how much damage had been done. But Smart knew one thing.
“I felt like my foot was on fire,” he said.
The Celtics braced for the worst, and so did Smart.
“Listening to what they had to say, they thought I broke it,” Smart said. “I did, too. I couldn’t put any pressure on it. I tried to get up, they told me to stay down. They didn’t want to take any chances.”
X-rays and MRIs showed that Smart had suffered a sprain with bone bruising. He was expected to miss 2-3 weeks, and considering the thoughts that raced through his mind from the time he went down to the time he was rolled off on a stretcher to the time he went to New England Baptist Hospital, Smart was relieved.
“It’s a blessing,” Smart said. “I just thank God it wasn’t a lot worse. You see a lot of guys go down with that type of injury. You only think the worst when the stretcher come out. So, I thank God it was only a sprained ankle and a bone bruise.”
The following Sunday, Smart was at the Celtics’ practice facility early in the morning, before the rest of the team arrived. He went through treatment before, during, and after practice.
“I’ve kind of been doing that here and there,” Smart said. “Usually, it’s two a day.”
He had been in a walking boot until Thursday, when he was able to ride a stationary bike without it.
“I don’t know if they’re going to put me back in,” he said. “But for now I’m out.”
Smart came into the season with a pedal-to-the-floor mentality, and even though he hit a pothole five games into his rookie year, the first-round pick plans to be cautious about his recovery.
“I’m just taking it slow, taking my time to make sure I’m 100 percent,” Smart said. “I don’t want to really rush anything right now. Even though I’m going to feel better before I really am, I’m just trying to make sure I am 100 percent before I step on the court.”
Since Smart has been out, the Celtics have beaten the Bulls on the road and lost to the Thunder at home. Dealing with the pain of not playing is as hard as dealing with the injury.
“It’s been eating me alive, especially because I love to play basketball,” Smart said. “Just seeing those guys out there, knowing that I can’t play, it’s helpless.”
With the Cavaliers coming to TD Garden on Friday, the guest room in Brad Stevens’s house will be occupied.
“My in-laws are from Cleveland and for some reason they decided to fly in this week,” Stevens said. “Shocking. I didn’t see them last year during this time.”
The Cavaliers are once again an exciting team since LeBron James returned and is teaming up with All-Stars Kyrie Irving and Kevin Love.
At 3-3, they’re a work in progress, but some of that progress was made four nights ago when James, Irving, and Love combined for 86 points in a 118-111 win over the New Orleans Pelicans.
“Still trying to figure out their identity,” said Jared Sullinger. “When you play the Cavs, they’ve got a pretty good Big Three in LeBron, Kevin Love, and Kyrie Irving. So we’ve got to come out and play hard. We’ve got to hit them first and be as aggressive as possible.”
Thornton should play
Marcus Thornton (ankle) practiced from start to finish and should be available against the Cavaliers . . . The Celtics and Cavaliers have been two of the worst teams at defending the 3-point line. Teams are shooting 40.6 percent on threes against the Celtics, hitting nine a game, and 39.3 percent against the Cavaliers, hitting an average of 9.5.