- Josh Smith continues to battle a sore left knee injury he aggravated in Game 2, but head coach Larry Drew continues be encouraged by his toughness. “I think he’s getting better everyday,” Drew said. “He’s been battling a sore knee the whole season. He knows we need him and knows he has to play hurt and that’s what he’s doing. I commend him for that. He is also showing signs of the knee improving.”
- Atlanta is still without big man Zaza Pachulia, but the center continues to inch closer to a return after sitting out the past month with a foot injury. ”Today was a good sign, he participated in the shootaround,” Drew said of Pachulia. “He was out there on the floor and getting some shots up there, shooting off of both legs. He hasn’t been able to do that since he hurt the foot.”
- Al Horford played 41 minutes in just his second game back from a torn left pectoral that sidelined him for nearly four months this season. Despite the heavy workload, the Hawks expect Horford to be back close to full strength in today’s potential elimination game. ”He didn’t show any signs of a setback with the injury,” Drew explained before the game. “He participated in the shootaround and got up a lot of shots. I didn’t anticipate playing him 40 minutes the other night, but it was do or die. There was no tomorrow for us then, there is no tomorrow for us tonight.”
- Paul Pierce will play tonight, despite the team announcing he has a sprained MCL in his left knee. The Celts’ captain suffered the injury on Sunday before Game 4, and the ailment continues to limit what he can do on the floor. “It’s not the best situation,” Doc Rivers admitted. “We have to figure out what he can do on the floor. He’s a scorer, but we have to figure out the best way for him to be effective.”
- With Pierce hobbled, Doc acknowledged the team wanted better play out of swingman Mickael Pietrus off the bench.”We need him,” Rivers said. “We need him to play well tonight. Shots just not going in right now. I don’t know what’s caused it from the beginning, if it’s injuries or something else.” Pietrus has hit just 2-of-13 3-point attempts through the first five games of the series.
– Brian Robb