ATLANTA (AP) — Atlanta Hawks forward Josh Smith said his ailing left knee was feeling better Thursday, and he was not ruling out being able to play against the Boston Celtics in Game 3 of the Eastern Conference playoffs.
Smith walked out of Philips Arena without a noticeable limp from his strained tendon, though he conceded it was still quite sore. He's always had a high tolerance for pain — this season, he played all 66 games despite some lingering tendinitis in his knees — and remained hopeful that he would be able to contribute at least a few minutes when the series returns to Boston on Friday.
He'll know more after the morning shootaround before the game.
"It's getting better and better each and every day," Smith said. "I'll probably go a good little bit harder that I normally do at shootaround to see how it feels."
The Hawks, who are tied 1-1 with the Celtics, will be in a dire predicament if Smith can't go. He averaged 18.8 points a game and the team is already missing two other big men, centers Al Horford and Zaza Pachulia.
Pachulia revealed details about his injured left foot for the first time Thursday. He said there's a chipped bone, with doctors putting the normal recovery time at 4 to 6 weeks. He was injured three weeks ago.
Horford missed most of the regular season after undergoing surgery for a torn pectoral muscle, and he's already ruled out a possible return in the opening round of the playoffs.
With that in mind, Smith is eager to get back as soon as possible. But he must balance his bravado with some common sense, knowing that if he returns too soon he could sustain an injury that wipes out any chance of him returning in the series — or maybe even the rest of the season.
"If it feels good, I'm going to go," he said. "But I don't want to put that much pressure on me. I understand how important this series is, but it's more than one game. I don't want to go out too early and risk getting injured more than I am. I'm going to take it day by day. Hopefully it feels good (Friday) and I'll be able to lace 'em up."
Smith had 22 points and 18 rebounds in Atlanta's Game 1 victory, and he followed with another double-double in the second contest (16 points, 12 rebounds). But Smith hurt his knee trying to box out Kevin Garnett for a rebound, forcing him to the locker room with just over 4 minutes remaining.
The Hawks were trailing by only two when Smith left. Boston pulled away after that for an 87-80 victory.
"I was more frustrated than anything," Smith said. "I tried to give it a go, but I just couldn't go. Knowing the importance of the game, that was the most frustrating part."
Pachulia, meanwhile, said he's yet to be cleared by the doctors to do any running or jumping. He's eager to get back on the court, but seems resigned to missing at least the first round.
He can only hope the Hawks' season will still be going when his foot heals.
"It's very frustrating for me," the rugged center said. "I always had fun in the playoffs every single time. It's a special moment of the year."
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