By the end of the Eastern Conference finals, Boston Celtics guard Marcus Smart felt the physical toll the series took on his body.
Smart dealt with several lower-body injuries over the course of the seven-game showdown against the Miami Heat, causing him to be questionable for seemingly every game of the series. Smart suffered a right ankle sprain in Boston’s Game 3 loss, which caused him to miss the following contest, while a mid-foot sprain sidelined Smart for Game 1.
But even with the ailments piling up and Smart clearly not at full strength, he battled through the final three games — with some encouragement from his teammates — to help push the Celtics past the Heat and onto the NBA Finals for the first time since 2010.
“My whole right side is a little banged up on my leg,” Smart said following Boston’s 100-96 Game 7 victory, per NBC Sports Boston. “I got the quad injury, I have the foot injury and then I have the ankle injury. I’m not the only one, but it’s definitely been tough. But my teammates kept telling me, ‘We don’t care how hurt you is, man, we need you. Sixty-five, 70% of you if better than none of you, so give us everything you can and we’ll help you and pick up everything that we can that you can’t.’ That’s just what I wanted to go out there and do.”
In Games 6 and 7, Smart was on the floor for 40 and 41 minutes, respectively, and played a big role in the series-clinching win with 24 points, nine rebounds and five assists to go along with with a few head-scratching shot choices in the waning minutes of action.
Smart noted that in Game 7, his ankle injury acted up, causing him to sub out in the first quarter, but he wouldn’t let it deter him with a chance to go to the NBA Finals on the line.
“My ankle was hurting pretty bad tonight, to the point where I came out I think in the first quarter to tighten up my ankle brace,” Smart said. “And all I just remember is those guys just telling me, ‘Listen, forget about it. Play through it. We need you. Just keep it going.’ And that really stuck with me.
“It’s Game 7, I’ve been here four times and never got across the hump. So for me, it was I can’t let this happen again, and that’s what it came down to. I just wanted to go out there and make sure I left everything on the court.”
Smart will have three days to rest up before the Celtics take on the Golden State Warriors in the NBA Finals. Game 1 between the Celtics and Warriors is slated for Thursday.