Marcus Smart: Celtics are ‘pissed off' entering Hawks playoff series


Don't mistake chemistry and good vibes with complacency.

The Boston Celtics were in good spirits Thursday at a team practice as they gear up to face the Atlanta Hawks in the first round of the 2023 NBA playoffs. They have good reason to be happy, too: Boston won eight of its final 10 regular-season games and drew a relatively favorable postseason matchup Tuesday when Atlanta upset the Miami Heat in the NBA play-in tournament.

Dates, times for Celtics' first-round series vs. Hawks

But veteran guard Marcus Smart communicated in no uncertain terms that the Celtics will be all business Saturday afternoon for Game 1 at TD Garden.

"We’re back to pissed off," Smart told reporters at Thursday's practice. "Yeah, we’re happy and we’re smiling here, but we’re getting ready. We're having fun with it, but Saturday when we step on that court, you’re not going to see many smiles."

The Celtics have insisted all season that their sole focus is winning a championship after falling two wins short of a title in the 2022 NBA Finals. While their effort lagged at times during the regular season -- particularly against inferior opponents -- it sounds like the team is fully committed to keeping its foot on the gas in the 2023 postseason.

"The energy has been great," All-Star forward Jayson Tatum added Thursday. "Essentially been waiting for this moment, getting to the playoffs. The group is locked in, the group is focused. Everybody’s back and healthy. So we’re just preparing the right way."

Health will be key to a deep postseason run, and the good news for Boston is that both Smart (neck) and Jaylen Brown (right hand laceration) are expected to be ready to go Saturday.

“My neck is doing fine," Smart added. “Still a little sore, but I’m keeping up with my treatments and strengthening my neck muscles to make sure this doesn’t re-occur.

" ... Physically, I wouldn’t say 100 percent, but pretty close. I haven’t been able to say that in a while. It feels good to say that."

The Celtics are a long way away from raising Banner 18, and they can't afford to look past any opponent if they want to get back to the NBA Finals. If they adopt Smart's "pissed off" mindset, that bodes well for their chances.

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