MILWAUKEE — Boston Celtics guard Marcus Smart says there’s a “strong likelihood” he’ll play Saturday after missing Game 2 of the Eastern Conference semifinal with a bruised right thigh.

“We’re just dealing with the last part of it, and that’s getting that restriction off of the knee and the joint so I can be able to bend,” Smart said Thursday in a Zoom session from Boston. “Once that goes away, I should be back to myself. Everything else is healing up the right way.”

Celtics Coach Ime Udoka said “we’ll know more tomorrow, how he reacts to what he did today.” The series is tied 1-1 as it heads back to Milwaukee after the Celtics earned a 109-86 victory in Game 2.

Smart said the injury is similar to an issue he faced in the regular season. The NBA defensive player of the year missed six games in January due to a quadriceps problem. He added he’s also dealing with fluid in his knee.

“It’s literally the exact same one in the exact same spot,” Smart said. “Just reaggravating the same injury I’ve been dealing with. As we all know, injuries like that, they kind of linger.”

Smart said the injury is particularly bothersome when he tries to get into a defensive crouch.


“That’s what’s kind of keeping me back, because of the fluid on the knee that is restricting that movement to really bend down as much as I need to, especially to get into a defensive stance and explode and push off. It’s kind of hard to get out there and play when you can’t do that.”

GRIZZLIES: Dillon Brooks was suspended for one game without pay by the NBA for making “unnecessary and excessive contact” that resulted in a fractured elbow for Golden State’s Gary Payton II in Game 2 of the Western Conference semifinals.

Brooks must sit out Saturday’s Game 3 with the series shifting to Chase Center in San Francisco tied at one game apiece.

Payton was injured with 9:08 left in the first quarter when Brooks clobbered him on the head and the guard fell awkwardly on his left arm. Brooks received a Flagrant 2 foul and was ejected.

The Warriors said journeyman Payton also sustained ligament and muscle damage on the play that Coach Steve Kerr called “dirty” and said “broke the code” of NBA conduct. Payton underwent an MRI exam in the Bay Area on Wednesday and will be re-evaluated again in two weeks.

The NBA also announced that Warriors forward Draymond Green was fined $25,000 for directing an obscene gesture at the Grizzlies fans. He flipped them off with both hands while going to the locker room to be examined for an injury in the first quarter of Golden State’s 106-101 loss Tuesday.


NETS: Ben Simmons underwent what was determined to be a successful back surgery in Los Angeles. The Brooklyn Nets are hoping that he is fully recovered before the start of training camp this fall.

Simmons will need about three weeks for an “initial recovery period,” the Nets said, before he can start his rehabilitation program. The procedure Simmons had was called a microdiscectomy, in which a small fragment of a herniated disc is removed to relieve pressure on the spinal column.

Training camp will start in late September.

Simmons last played a game on June 20, 2021. He missed this entire season – some with Philadelphia before being traded to the Nets in the move that sent James Harden to the 76ers – for a variety of reasons, including mental health concerns before the trade and then what were originally called back spasms after the trade.

The hope is the surgery will allow Simmons to get back on the court, play without pain and become another key piece of a title-contending group led by Kevin Durant and Kyrie Irving that Brooklyn envisions. Working through the mental issues that Simmons is dealing with, Nets Coach Steve Nash said toward the end of Brooklyn’s season, will remain a top priority for the team as well going forward.

“There is a mental component with everything,” Nash said late last month. “I think Ben has addressed that there is a mental component with what he’s going through. But how much and where he’s at with that is not for me to speak about. But as far as an organization, we’re really pushing to support Ben in any way we can to help him improve physically and get back on the court.”


This was the second full season that Simmons has missed in the past six years. He was picked No. 1 in the 2016 NBA draft but didn’t debut that season because of foot issues. He was rookie of the year in the following season, 2017-18, and was picked for the NBA All-Star games in 2019, 2020 and 2021.
Simmons has three years and nearly $114 million remaining on his contract.


SUNS 129, MAVERICKS 109: Chris Paul scored 28 points, including 14 in another spectacular fourth quarter, to lead Phoenix over visiting Dallas for a 2-0 lead in the Western Conference semifinals.

Paul – a 12-time All-Star who turns 37 years old on Friday – almost single-handedly turned a tight game into a comfortable victory, the Suns’ 11th win in a row against the Mavericks counting regular-season games.

The Mavs led 60-58 at halftime but the Suns quickly recaptured the lead after Devin Booker hit back-to-back 3-pointers early in the third. The Suns took an 89-83 advantage going into the final quarter and it looked like a tough fight was coming.

But that’s about the time Paul decided the game was his to control, hitting six shots in a row on everything from 3-pointers to mid-range jumpers to layups. The feisty Mavericks finally didn’t have an answer. Booker hit a pair of 3-pointers midway through the fourth to give the Suns a 114-95 lead.

Booker led the Suns with 30 points on 11-of-19 shooting, including 5 of 8 from 3-point range. The Suns shot 64.5% overall and made 52% of their 3-pointers.
Game 3 is on Friday in Dallas.

The Mavericks will go home in a 2-0 hole, desperately needing contributions from someone other than Luka Doncic, who scored 35 points on 13-of-22 shooting two nights after a 45-point performance in Game 1. Reggie Bullock added 16 points.

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