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Brad Stevens on Marcus Smart for Game 5: ‘Don’t know how we could put him on the court much more’ 04.25.16 at 3:31 pm ET
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Celtics guard Marcus Smart (36) blocks the shot of Hawks center Al Horford (15). (David Butler II/USA Today Sports)

Celtics guard Marcus Smart blocks the shot of Hawks center Al Horford in Sunday’s game. (David Butler II/USA Today Sports)

The Celtics didn’t practice Monday, and Marcus Smart can be very happy about that. 

When he checked in for Jonas Jerebko with 9:20 left in the third quarter of Game 4 on Sunday, he probably didn’t think he would play the rest of the game. But that’s what he did. 

He played the final 28 minutes and 40 seconds of an epic, highly-charged and intense playoff game at TD Garden. His defense on Paul Millsap for the final 10 minutes was a big reason the Celtics were able to pull out a 104-95 win in overtime and tie the series at 2-2. 

But just because he held Millsap to four points in the final 10 minutes doesn’t mean Brad Stevens won’t put him back on Kyle Korver (whom he guarded initially) or Jeff Teague or anyone else. 

“I think obviously we’ll play him on a bunch of different guys the way we have all season,” Stevens said in a conference call Monday before heading off on a flight to Atlanta for Game 5 Tuesday. “We’re going to have to play the game as it goes.”

Evan Turner took the place of Smart in the starting lineup after Smart went 1-for-11 from the field and the Celtics needed the scoring. Sunday, Smart hit a pair of huge threes back-to-back to put the Celtics on top, 85-84, midway through the fourth. Smart played 41 of the 53 minutes Sunday and scored 20 points. 

“I don’t know how we could put him on the court much more,” Stevens said. “He played the last [nine] minutes of the third quarter, the whole fourth quarter and overtime. So, whether he starts or not, really to me is inconsequential. He’s going to play a lot and then we’ll figure out what match-ups we’ll need to hit during the game.

“That’s part of what the way I’m looking at it right now. Obviously, we’ve started decent each of the last two games. There’s going to be times where we need Marcus to guard Teague, Marcus to guard Korver, Marcus to guard Millsap, et cetera. We’ll play it by ear. We’ll see how it’s going with that. But, he’s going to play his typical lot of minutes.”

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Read More: 2016 NBA playoffs, Atlanta Hawks, Boston Celtics, Isaiah Thomas
Mike Petraglia, Sam Packard on how Marcus Smart, Celtics won Game 4 04.24.16 at 11:16 pm ET
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WEEI.com’s Mike Petraglia and Sam Packard discuss how Marcus Smart and the Celtics stopped Paul Millsap and the Hawks when it mattered most in a 104-95 overtime win Sunday night at TD Garden. Millsap scored 45 points but only two when Marcus Smart was guarding him for the final 10 minutes of the game. The Celtics also caught a break when Hawks point guard Jeff Teague dribbled out the final 15 seconds of regulation.

Read More: 2016 NBA playoffs, Atlanta Hawks, Boston Celtics, Marcus Smart
Marcus Smart on being assigned Paul Millsap: ‘I was a little surprised’ at 10:37 pm ET
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Brad Stevens figured he had nothing to lose. 

Paul Millsap had 24 points at the half Sunday night. He came out and had baskets over, in order, Evan Turner, Amir Johnson and Jae Crowder to open the second half. The Celtics defensive engine was leaking oil and fast. The C’s trailed 62-46 midway through the third. The Hawks stopped going to Millsap long enough for the Celtics to catch their breath and catch up by the end of the third quarter. 

Boston trailed just 73-70 heading into the fourth. Millsap had 36, almost half of Atlanta’s points. Then Millsap turned it on again to start the fourth, scoring seven more points before Stevens had seen enough. 

The Celtics coach turned to Marcus Smart and essentially said, “You’re up next. Go get ’em, Marcus.” 

“To be honest I was a little surprised with the height and size advantage that he had,” Smart said of the half-foot height he was giving up to Millsap. “But just to really stop and make it hard for him, pressure him and really contest every shot that he took.”

It worked. Millsap scored just two more points, finishing with 45, and the Celtics pulled out a stunning 104-95 overtime win Sunday night to even the series heading back to Atlanta for Tuesday’s Game 5.

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Read More: 2016 NBA playoffs, Atlanta Hawks, Boston Celtics, Marcus Smart
Jonas Jerebko starts for Jared Sullinger, Evan Turner starts for Marcus Smart as Brad Stevens shakes it up 04.22.16 at 6:55 pm ET
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Brad Stevens stayed true to his word before Friday’s Game 3 with the Hawks at TD Garden.

Marcus Smart and Jared Sullinger will start the game on the bench while Evan Turner and Jonas Jerebko get the start.

“We’re going to start Turner for Smart and Jerebko for Sullinger,” Stevens announced just under two hours before tip. “We’ll go with Turner, Isaiah, Jae, Jerebko and Amir.”

“Obviously, there’s certain things from the starting group, as far as how we want to play, spacing-wise,” Stevens said in explaining the move. “Those types of things factor in. Obviously, Jerebko gives you spacing, gives you some defensive versatility on the two bigs. And then Turner has been, along with Isaiah, really able to get into the paint and do certain things, and consistently be able to attack throughout the first [two] games.

“That’s that. Sully and Smart are still going to play, still going to play big parts for us. I’ve said this before about the guards, you can just kind of throw a dart with those four guards, and Smart being the fourth one tonight. They’re all going to play 30-plus minutes for us on most nights.”

The lineup of Turner, Isaiah Thomas, Jae Crowder, Jerebko and Johnson haven’t exactly spent a lot of time together this season on the court.

“They’ve played a whole 33 possessions together. They’re plus-20. So, the sample size in an analytical viewpoint is not strong. But I think the one thing is you practice all year. You try different things. You’re going to have moments like this, certainly, especially with Avery out, with Kelly out where you’re going to have to do some of that. And you know what? There’s going to be groups off the bench that haven’t played much together, too.

“Any lineup with Terry and/or R.J. or both has not played very much for us. So, that’s the way it is. That’s why you practice all year and that’s why you play and find the synergy in practice. You believe in what supposed to do by doing it right and you go out and do it.”

Read More: 2016 NBA playoffs, Atlanta Hawks, Boston Celtics, Brad Stevens
Brad Stevens says Kelly Olynyk ‘questionable’ for Game 3, Avery Bradley hints at return 04.20.16 at 3:55 pm ET
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Kelly Olynyk

Kelly Olynyk

Kelly Olynyk and his right shoulder remain a big question mark heading into Game 3 Friday night against Atlanta. 

Celtics coach Brad Stevens said during a conference call Wednesday that after meeting with head trainer Ed Lacerte, it’s questionable at this point whether the 7-footer would be able to dress up and play Friday. 

“I’d say it’d be questionable based on my conversations with Ed Lacerte today,” Stevens said. 

Olynyk re-injured the shoulder in Game 1 last Saturday and didn’t dress for Game 2 Tuesday night. Olynyk missed 12 games when he initially injured the shoulder on Feb. 10 against the Clippers at TD Garden. 

As for the injured backcourt duo of Avery Bradley and Marcus Smart, Stevens said Bradley had an MRI on Wednesday but hadn’t heard the results yet. Stevens repeated in his Wednesday conference call that Bradley would be out of games “this weekend” and “very likely” for the rest of the series. 

Bradley did tell Celtics TV broadcaster Mike Gorman that there’s a chance he could return by the end of the series. Gorman, appearing on the Celtics radio flagship station, repeated a conversation he had with Bradley on Tuesday. 

“I asked if he would play again,” Gorman said, “and he said he was hoping he could play next week. He said, ‘If we can extend this series, I’m hoping I can play again.'”

“He underwent his MRI. I have not gotten the answer about how that went,” Stevens said during the conference call. “I don’t know if they’ve looked at it yet, or not. Obviously, with Kelly kind of being questionable for Game 3 and Marcus [having] bruised ribs, as far as getting immediate results, that’s who I’ve talked to Eddie about. Avery is going to be out this weekend, and like I said, is very unlikely for the rest of the series.”

As for Marcus Smart, he took a knee from Kent Bazemore above the right hip and at the bottom of his rib cage in the first 30 seconds of Tuesday night’s game when Bazemore drove baseline.

The prognosis is good for Smart, so good that Stevens expects Smart to be able to participate in practice on Thursday in Waltham.  Stevens didn’t even mention Jae Crowder, who is still battling a sore right ankle from his high ankle sprain in March, or Isaiah Thomas and his dinged left wrist. 

“I feel bad for those guys because this is the time of the year where everybody wants to be healthy, everybody wants to play, everybody wants to get their crack at it,” Stevens added. “So, I feel bad for those guys. As far as for me, we’re going to do the very best with the guys that are available. We have a lot of good players in this room that have a done a lot of good things throughout the year. We’re going to need to play everybody that’s available to be playing at their best this weekend to give ourselves a chance in this.”

The Hawks didn’t escape the injury bug Tuesday as Dennis Schroder badly twisted his left ankle on a drive to the basket late in the fourth quarter. He had to be helped to the Hawks locker room. He was replaced by Kirk Hinrich, who would likely take his place on the Hawks bench if Schroder is severely limited or can’t go in Game 3. 

Read More: 2016 NBA playoffs, Atlanta Hawks, Avery Bradley, Boston Celtics
Studs and Duds: Historically bad start sets table for another Celtics playoff loss, 0-2 hole 04.19.16 at 9:27 pm ET
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Hawks center Al Horford (15) grabs a pass against against Marcus Smart (36) in the first quarter Tuesday at Philips Arena. (Jason Getz-USA Today Sports)

Hawks center Al Horford grabs a pass over Marcus Smart in the first quarter Tuesday at Philips Arena. (Jason Getz/USA Today Sports)

Talk about adding insult to injury. 

The Celtics were embarrassed Tuesday night in epic fashion, falling behind by 21 points in the first six minutes and never fully recovering in an 89-72 loss to the Hawks in Game 2 at Philips Arena. Atlanta leads the best-of-seven series 2-0 as it shifts to Boston for Game 3 on Friday night at TD Garden. 

Isaiah Thomas was ice cold at the start but finished strong and led Boston with 16 points while Amir Johnson added 14. The trio of Thomas (4-for-15), Marcus Smart (1-for-11) and Jae Crowder (1-for-8) combined to shoot just 6-for-34.

The Celtics were down by double digits for the final 44 minutes, 57 seconds, and finished just 5-for-28 from 3-point range as they desperately tried to get back in the game. 

Al Horford and Kyle Korver each scored 17 for the Hawks, who are two wins away from their first playoff series win over the Celtics since the 1958 NBA Finals, when the franchise was still in St. Louis. 

Already down Avery Bradley and Kelly Olynyk, the Celtics lost Smart briefly in the first 15 seconds when Kent Bazemore went up for a layup and kneed Smart in the right hip. 

Smart, who started in place of Bradley, would play just six minutes in the opening quarter before leaving with Dr. Brian McKeon. He was evaluated with a hip contusion and cleared to return. In his place, Terry Rozier and R.J. Hunter struggled to help Thomas get the offense going. 

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Read More: 2016 NBA playoffs, Atlanta Hawks, Avery Bradley, Boston Celtics
Marcus Smart starts, Kelly Olynyk (shoulder) sits out Game 2 at 6:41 pm ET
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Marcus Smart

Marcus Smart

Brad Stevens will have limited options as he approaches Game 2. 

Kelly Olynyk will sit out to rest his right shoulder, after re-aggravating the injury from February while Marcus Smart will start tonight in place of the injured Avery Bradley.

Stevens told reporters in his pregame press conference that his decision to start Smart over Evan Turner in place of Bradley was aimed at achieving balance. It should be noted that Turner has been one of the best bench players in the NBA this season, finishing fifth in “Sixth Man” voting in results made public by the league on Tuesday. 

Tuesday’s starting lineup of Smart, Isaiah Thomas, Jared Sullinger, Amir Johnson and Jae Crowder spent just over 78 minutes on the court together this season at some point. This is the sixth time the quintet has started a game, but the first time since Nov. 20. In the stretch from Nov. 13-20, they posted a 4-1 record. Ironically, the first time this group started a game together, it was against Atlanta, in a 106-93 win at TD Garden on Nov. 13. 

Keeping Turner on that unit clearly played into Stevens’ decision. 

“The way that Evan plays with some of the guys that are going to be off of the bench is important,” Stevens said.

In the first two of eight games Jae Crowder missed with a sprained right ankle, Stevens went with Smart in the starting lineup before turning to the bigger Turner for his scoring to replace Crowder. Losing Bradley, it’s apparent that Stevens is going with Smart’s defense. 

“The bottom line is all four of those guards – and when I talk ‘all four of those guards, Isaiah (Thomas), Marcus, Jae and Evan – will all play 30-plus minutes,” Stevens said. “So we can start any three of them but they’re all going to play a lot.”

Look for Terry Rozier and R.J. Hunter to see increased playing time Tuesday if foul trouble arises. 

As for who will replace Olynyk’s minutes off the bench, Jonas Jerebko is one option but Stevens suggested Tyler Zeller could see a bigger role. 

“Tyler’s ability to bring an obvious energy with his rim-runs with his speed, and his ability to roll off of pick-and-rolls and create a paint threat are really important,” said Stevens. “Whether or not he touches the ball or not, just having that threat is really important.”

Read More: 2016 NBA playoffs, Atlanta Hawks, Boston Celtics, Kelly Olynyk
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