A person with knowledge of the prognosis for Josh Smith said the Hawks forward is doubtful to play in Game 3 against the Celtics Friday after he suffered a left knee injury in Game 2 Tuesday.
The person said Smith has patellar tendonitis with inflammation in the injured area but an MRI revealed no structural damage. If Smith misses Game 3 he likely would return for Game 4 Sunday in Boston, according to the person.
The person did not want to be identified because the Hawks have not released details of Smith’s injury. The Hawks released a statement that said Smith is day-to-day with a “strained left tendon.”
Smith suffered the injury during the fourth quarter of Atlanta’s 87-80 defeat to Boston. He appeared to pull up limping after a layup attempt and later aggravated it while jostling for rebounding position with Boston’s Kevin Garnett.
Smith played through nagging injuries during the regular season. Smith and Jeff Teague were the only starters to play in all 66 games.
“I know Josh is a guy if it’s just hurting him, he’s going to play,” Hawks coach Larry Drew said before Smith’s MRI results were known. “He has that kind of toughness. But if it’s a situation where he positively, absolutely can’t play, then he won’t be out there.
“I’m always worried in these situations. He’ s just been so good for us and certainly he’s a key component in order for us to have success. With both of your centers out and looking at your power forward being injured, I’m hoping for the best. ”
The Hawks also are without Al Horford (pectoral) and Zaza Pachulia (foot). Horford has ruled himself out for the entire series but there is a chance Pachulia can return if the series is extended.
Drew said Smith’s injury has no bearing on the timetable for Horford and Pachulia.
“I ask every day how they are doing, but me asking and wanting them back is not going to speed up the process whether they are ready or not,” Drew said. “If they are ready and they can play I am sure they would play. If Josh is not ready to go, and if Zaza and Al are not ready, I will just have to be without all three guys and we will march on. As bad as I want those guys back, if those guys aren’t ready to play I can’t push it or pressure them into playing.”
If the Hawks have to play without Smith, they’d be left with no effective low-post scorers or help defenders in the frontcourt. Ivan Johnson would be about it as far as big men who can rebound.
Drew’s options for the lineup would include starting Johnson at power forward alongside Jason Collins or going small with Marvin Williams, Vladimir Radmanovic or Tracy McGrady at power forward.
None of those options is likely to do much to help Atlanta’s anemic offense. Smith’s ability to score in the post and ignite the fast break after rebounds have been the most reliable options for the Hawks in this series.
“We have to make a decision who to insert into the starting lineup,” Drew said. “It changes the matchups. Defensively, we would have to make adjustments. Offensively we are certainly going to have to do some things differently. As far as posting up, he’s the guy I’ve really been going through a lot. We would have to tweak things quite a bit.”
Michael Cunningham, Hawks beat