And things continue to get worse. Kemba Walker was already ruled out of Wednesday’s game due to a left oblique strain. Now the Boston Celtics will also be without Walker’s backcourt mate, Marcus Smart.
The NBA announced today that the 27-year-old guard has been suspended one game without pay for “directing threatening language toward a game official,” via Kiki VanDeWeghe, Executive Vice President, Basketball Operations, & NBA.com. The league notes that the incident took place “during and after” the Celtics’ 119-115 loss to the Oklahoma City Thunder on Tuesday.
OKC’s victory was spearheaded by a 41-point fourth-quarter explosion that, in return, ended their 14-game losing streak. As for Boston, the loss to the Thunder marked their third consecutive loss and fourth over their last five games. In the contest, Smart struggled mightily with his shot, knocking down just 4-of-17 field goal attempts while going 1-of-10 from 3-point range.
Despite his recent poor showing, Smart will be sorely missed on Wednesday as the Celtics look to get revenge on the Charlotte Hornets, who handed the Cs a beatdown this past weekend to the tune of 125-104.
The former No. 6 overall pick has enjoyed a career season in 2020-21, posting personal bests in points (13.6) and assists (5.5). He’s also shooting 40.4% from the field and 33.7% from beyond the arc — both top-three marks over his seven-year tenure in Beantown.
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Celtics Must Step Up on the Defensive End
In Smart and Walker’s absence look for rookie Payton Pritchard to continue to shoulder an uptick in minutes. The Oregon product logged 33 minutes off the bench on Tuesday, registering a career-high 28 points.
Still, Pritchard’s offensive prowess will only take the Celtics so far, as the team has allowed 119-plus points in back-to-back games against offenses that rank No. 22 (Hornets) and No. 28 (Thunder) in scoring, respectively.
“We messed up on some defensive assignments sometimes, and that doesn’t lead to winning,” Pritchard said following the loss. “For us, it’s figuring out how to play 48 minutes and trying to stop teams runs like that … Our focus really needs to just be on the defensive end and becoming a defensive-minded team and really locking in and getting stops.”
Latest on Tatum & Time Lord’s Health
While the Celtics will be without two of their more prominent backcourt pieces on Wednesday, they will be receiving a boost to their frontcourt, as well as regaining the services of their top scorer.
Forward Jayson Tatum and big man Robert Williams have each been removed from the team’s injury report and are good to go against Charlotte, via Yahoo Sports’ Keith Smith.
Tatum — third in the NBA in minutes (35.6 mpg) — returns after a one-game absence due to a left ankle impingement. Williams, on the other hand, will take the court for the first time since April 13th. The 23-year-old missed a total of seven games while dealing with left knee soreness. In his absence, the team has relied on a rotation that includes the likes of Tristan Thompson and Grant Williams.
Prior to his injury, Williams had started 10 consecutive games following the Daniel Theis trade, averaging 10.1 points, 9.1 rebounds and 3.4 assists over that span.