PHILADELPHIA — Less than two weeks after it appeared Marcus Smart would miss several weeks with what looked to be a serious ankle injury, the Celtics rookie is working his way back to the court and could return Sunday against Portland.
During the team's shootaround Wednesday morning at Wells Fargo Center, Smart took to the court with his teammates, taking jumpers with his left ankle taped. Shortly after practice Tuesday, according to coach Brad Stevens, Smart took some shots while moving, which is considered progress.
Smart hasn't been able to move laterally or participate in defensive drills, but that could change quickly.
"I think there's the potential he could be back as early as early next week," Stevens said. "I personally think Sunday would be stretching it. I don't know that but I think he could be back practicing once we have that four- or five-day break [next week]."
Stevens said Smart won't play until he's 100 percent, but the guard no longer wears a protective boot and is making the road trip to Philadelphia and Memphis, a sign that he is improving. The Celtics projected Smart would return in two to three weeks about 12 days ago, which could mean a return by the Nov. 28 game against the Chicago Bulls.
Meanwhile, the Celtics are wary of facing the 0-10 76ers, who have had surprising success against Boston during their rebuilding project. The 76ers are 30th in the NBA in scoring, 25th in points allowed, and 26th in rebounding. Seven of their 10 losses have been by double digits, including Monday's 100-75 loss to the San Antonio Spurs.
Philadelphia hasn't played at home since Nov. 7 and will be starving for a victory.
"My thing is, if you don't play desperate, you don't win," Stevens said. "That's the case no matter who you're playing. Those [Philadelphia] guys have played really well in the past two games and they're getting healthy.
"They're size and length is an issue. And the way that they've played and the speed that they've played is an issue."
The 76ers have Boston-area products Michael Carter-Williams (shoulder surgery) and Nerlens Noel (sprained ankle). Both played Monday against San Antonio, with both coming off the bench.
Key matchup: Tony Wroten vs. Avery Bradley
Wroten is the 76ers' leading scorer and can score in bunches when allowed to dominate the ball. The Celtics will have to hinder the streaky Wroten from getting to the rim because when he scores early, he has the capability of putting up big numbers. Bradley will be assigned to contain him, and it could be the key to the Celtics averting an embarrassing loss.
76ers at a glance
■ When, where: Wednesday, 7 p.m., at Wells Fargo Center, Philadelphia.
■ TV, radio: CSNN, WEEI (93.7)
■ Scoring: Tony Wroten 19.1, Michael Carter-Williams 16.0, Alexey Shved 9.0.
■ Rebounds: Henry Sims 6.0, Carter-Williams 6.0, Nerlens Noel 5.9.
■ Assists: Wroten 6.0, Carter-Williams 4.7, Shved 3.1.
■ Head to head: This is the first of four meetings. Philadelphia won three of four against Boston last season.
■ Miscellany: Noel, the former Everett star, leads all rookies in steals (1.5), blocks (1.5), and rebounds . . . The 0-10 Sixers are last in the NBA in points per game at 88.5 . . . C Joel Embiid (foot), F Jerami Grant (ankle), and G Jason Richardson (knee) are out . . . All 15 players on the roster are 6-6 or taller; at an average of 6-7, the Sixers are tied with Portland as the tallest team in the league.
Follow Gary Washburn on Twitter at @GWashburnGlobe.