Celtics to rely on bench depth in wake of Smart injury


Winslow Townson-USA TODAY Sports

Jan 30, 2021; Boston, Massachusetts, USA; Boston Celtics guard Marcus Smart (36) is helped up after being injured during the fourth quarter against the Los Angeles Lakers at TD Garden. Mandatory Credit: Winslow Townson-USA TODAY Sports

Spencer Marks, Sports Writer

The Boston Celtics lost to the Los Angeles Lakers in a nail biter that came down to the final seconds of regulation on Saturday night. Boston fell short by a final of 96-95 after missing a pair of game-winning shots. The team may have lost something worse than their eighth game on Saturday, however. Celtics point guard Marcus Smart jumped up to block Lakers forward Montrezl Harrell’s layup and landed awkwardly leading some to the assumption it could’ve been an Achilles tear similar to Kevin Durant in the 2019 NBA Finals. Luckily for the team, however, the injury doesn’t appear to be that serious. 

Celtics head coach Brad Stevens cleared up any rumors during his postgame press conference. 

“First of all, Marcus Smart’s got a calf strain, we’ll know more tomorrow; he’ll go to an MRI,” explained Stevens. 

This was promising news for the Celtics organization as the initial look of the injury was ugly.  

Smart received an MRI the next day and New York Times’ Marc Stein had tweeted, “The Celtics say Marcus Smart is expected to return in 2 to 3 weeks after sustaining a Grade I tear of his right medial gastrocnemius.” The right medial gastrocnemius translates to Smart’s right calf muscle.  

Smart has played in 17 of the team’s 20 games to this point. He has been a large part of the Celtics offensive game as he averages the fourth-most points per game on the team with 13.1. Along with that, Smart leads his team in steals and assists; losing him after putting up career numbers will be a big blow for Boston. The loss proves even greater given the current state of their depth chart. 

Celtics guard Kemba Walker had missed the first month of the season due to a stem-cell procedure in his knee which gave Smart the lead role at the position. Now that he is out for the coming weeks, Walker will be forced regain a larger role despite the team being cautious with his playing time since his return. Rookie point guard Payton Pritchard has been out since last week with an MCL sprain. The injury to Prichard will likely lead to a spike in minutes for veteran Jeff Teague and potentially Carsen Edwards. 

Celtics shooting guard Jaylen Brown spoke to the importance of Smart and the level of concern in his absence. 

“Marcus is essential to our team… he’s been great. Whether the numbers show it or not, Marcus has been a leader on this team; he’s been somebody that has been looking to get guys the ball in the right spots, including me. So, to have him go down in the middle of the game like that, definitely had everybody concerned. Hopefully, the MRI is negative, and we get him, and we can get some wins on the road,” said Brown. 

In the meantime, Walker and the Celtics will need to begin to cut into the top half of the Eastern Conference in order for the team to take full advantage of their roster by the time Smart is back in full swing.