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Celtics say Marcus Smart could return in 6-8 weeks

Marcus Smart injured his thumb in Sunday’s game vs. Indiana.Jim Davis/Globe Staff

ORLANDO — The Celtics received some bittersweet news on point guard Marcus Smart, who underwent surgery Friday to repair a torn ulnar collateral ligament in his right thumb.

The bad news is that Smart will miss the rest of the season and the first round of the playoffs. Smart could return in 6-8 weeks, possibly for the Eastern Conference semifinals if the Celtics advance that far.

Smart injured his thumb last Sunday against the Indiana Pacers and consulted with a hand specialist in New York before deciding on surgery. The Celtics lose one of their best defenders and intense players. The Celtics have 12 regular-season games left after Friday’s game against the Magic. The playoffs begin April 14.

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“He’s a guy that really wants to play and it clearly needed to be fixed and all the doctors agreed on that,” Celtics coach Brad Stevens said before the Celtics’ 92-83 victory over the Magic. “Obviously it’s another guy we’re going to be missing. We’re going to be in the process of really looking at ourselves and figure out how we can redistribute the responsibility on our team without asking guys to go outside of what they do best.”

Smart has been a sparkplug off the bench and the Celtics defense is considerably better with him on the floor. Smart missed 11 games with a right hand laceration after punching a picture frame in Los Angeles in January but had made a major impact since his return following the All-Star break.

Without Smart, the Celtics are expected to use Terry Rozier and Shane Larkin extensively at point guard with Kyrie Irving missing his second consecutive game Friday night. Rozier had 17 points and five assists in 34:12 of playing time against the Magic, Larkin 10 points in 18:51.

Irving made the trip and could play Sunday against the Pelicans at New Orleans. He did a light workout during the team’s shootaround at Amway Center but was ruled out. Al Horford, who missed the past two games with an illness, returned against the Magic.

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And finally, Stevens said Jaylen Brown (concussion) is no longer experiencing headaches and could start the physical part of his concussion protocol this weekend. Brown isn’t expected back until next week, at the earliest.

“It’s an unfortunate part of it but everybody is dealing with [injuries],” Stevens said. “Orlando’s season could have been a lot different if [Terrence] Ross had not got hurt, had [Aaron] Gordon not missed so many games, [Nikola] Vucevic was out for a couple of months. It’s just the way it is in this league. It’s not like we get a week in between games. We’ve got to figure it out on the fly.”

Horford better

Horford’s illness left him bed-ridden. He said he felt much better and was not on a minutes limit.

“It was sore throat, stomach, everything,” he said. “I was down for a couple of days. Tuesday is when I turned the corner. I thought I was going to be good for Wednesday [against Washington] but still wasn’t ready.”

Horford said he’s been battling a virus for a few weeks but it became severe last Saturday and he was told to stay home for last Sunday’s game against the Pacers.

He showed no effects early, scoring 6 points with 6 rebounds in his first 10 minutes before finishing with 15 points, 9 rebounds, and 3 assists.

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“I’ve never seen anything like this,” Horford said of the injuries. “It’s hard on our group.”

College days

Sunday will be an interesting day for Stevens, as the team he led to two NCAA Tournament title games, Butler University, will take on in-state rival Purdue in the second round. Stevens watched the second half of the Bulldogs’ first-round win over Arkansas before addressing the media on Friday.

The significance of the Butler-Purdue matchup was not lost on Stevens.

“Outside of my Butler group of [coaching] friends, [Purdue coach] Matt [Painter] is one of my better friends in coaching,” Stevens said. “I couldn’t be more thrilled for Butler. I’m glad I could turn [on the Arkansas game] at the end and not worry about it. That will be a heck of a game in the Round of 32.

“As much as I love Matt, I hope to see Butler in Boston next week [in the NCAA East Regional].”

During his years at Butler, Stevens said he tried unsuccessfully to schedule home-and-home sets with the bigger in-state schools.

“What happened was early on those schools didn’t want to play us as much when we were in the Horizon League and we would play them, but [on the road] only,” he said. “After we went to the [NCAA] Finals, regardless of if we were in the Horizon, [Atlantic] 10 or Big East, teams were willing to play home-and-homes because they no longer looked at it as a downside.

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“We worked hard at studying Gonzaga’s scheduling model when I was at Butler and trying to figure out how best to give ourselves a chance. I hate to see some of these [mid-majors] left out because that’s what makes the tournament special.”

Gordon still out

Gordon has not passed his concussion protocol and missed his fifth consecutive game. He suffered a concussion March 7 against the Lakers . . . With Horford back in the starting lineup, rookie Guerschon Yabusele was back on the bench . . . Irving sat on the bench in street clothes and cheered his teammates on.


Gary Washburn can be reached at gwashburn@globe.com. Follow him on Twitter @GwashburnGlobe.