WALTHAM — Marcus Thornton watched the Celtics practice from behind the scorers’ table, unable to run because of a partial muscle tear in his left calf. When the session was over, he tried a 40-footer on one leg unsuccessfully. That’s the most action Thornton will see for a few weeks.
The Celtics’ most productive offensive reserve will be out for a while and the timing is poor for a team whose bench was beginning to develop an identity.
“I just tried to take off and it felt like somebody threw a ball at the back of my calf or something,” he said. “But I looked at the film and there wasn’t nobody behind me so I knew I pulled it or did something wrong.”
In seven December games, Thornton averaged 9.4 points in 15.1 minutes, with 50 percent shooting from the 3-point line. He was transforming into the player the Celtics haven’t had since Eddie House, a pure shooter who can get white-hot immediately.
“Yeah it’s frustrating and I was getting into a little rhythm myself,” Thornton said. “Having to deal with this now, it’s very frustrating. I looked at the film and I tried to blame it on somebody. But those [non-contact injuries] are the worst ones and it’s very unfortunate.”
The Celtics have risen to seventh in the league in bench scoring at 37.9 points per game because of the chemistry and production of the team’s newly acquired players such as Thornton, Evan Turner, Gerald Wallace, Kelly Olynyk and Brandon Bass.
“It shows how resilient we are and the toughness that we play with,” Thornton said. “We’re down me, Smart, [James Young] and for them to come out and play like they did [Monday against Philadelphia], it shows the heart they have.
“The second unit, we’re close. We’ve got our little secret handshake and everything. We’re pulling for one another and we want to see everybody succeed.”
Smart was projected to return to action Wednesday against the Orlando Magic after missing Monday’s win over Philadelphia with a strained left Achilles’ tendon. That status has changed, as the rookie guard could not make it through practice and is considered “unlikely” to play against Orlando.
Smart has battled injuries most of his rookie season, but Celtics coach Brad Stevens said it’s a byproduct of misfortune. Smart missed 10 games with a sprained left ankle suffered Nov. 7.
“He knows his body and the directive he was given was ‘you see how you feel and you decide,’ ” Stevens said. “So obviously he didn’t feel great. I don’t think it was anything [more] that happened. That’s OK. That was the directive he was given.”
Avery Bradley came back Monday after missing Friday’s loss to the New York Knicks with flu-like symptoms and missed 10-of-11 3-pointers. It was the second time in his career he has attempted as many as 11 in a game and the first time he has missed 10. A career 35.5 percent 3-point shooter, Bradley is shooting just 30 percent and is 3 for his past 22 beyond the arc.
“I don’t worry about it, I just take shots that the defense gives me,” he said. “[Monday] I had a lot of wide-open threes, I just didn’t make them. That’s why you use days like this to get in the gym and put that work in and your teammates keep believing in you and the coaches keep believing in you.
The fourth-year guard said he’s still trying to determine when to launch an open shot or take a defender to the basket.
“It’s kind of tough, I was missing wide-open threes and I’d be hurting my team if I’m not taking those shots,” he said. “I have to continue to shoot those shots and have confidence in myself.”
Although Olynyk appeared close to escaping his six-week skid with a career-best 30-point game, Jared Sullinger’s shooting doldrums continued Monday. He was 2 for 10 from the field for 5 points in 29 minutes. In the past five games, Sullinger is 9 for 39 from the field (23 percent), averaging 5 points, 9 below his season average. He did collect 11 rebounds against Philadelphia and was more aggressive on the offensive glass.
“[Monday night] was hard for him in the paint,” Stevens said. “He had a couple of tip-ins, a couple of rebounds we thought might go. I thought he was very consistent defensively and that will continue to get better as we go on this week. He’s gotta be a guy that not only scores on the block and off offensive rebounds, but has to be [the floor] stretcher. I don’t think it’s a coincidence that his 3-point percentage is better at the [power forward].”