Marcus Smart set to return to Celtics lineup Thursday vs. Brooklyn

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The Boston Celtics are finally healthy. Well, almost.

Boston’s core will be whole on Thursday with the return of Marcus Smart to the rotation. Coach Brad Stevens tipped off that this was coming on a Boston radio show Wednesday morning, then Smart confirmed it after practice.

Smart started the season well — averaging 13.1 points a game and playing elite perimeter defense — but had missed 18 straight games after suffering a calf injury against the Lakers. Smart added he will be on a minutes restriction at first.

The Celtics are not completely healthy; rookie Romeo Langford is out due to COVID-19 health and safety protocols.

The Celtics enter the second half of the season with a 19-17 record that has them fourth in the East, which is pretty impressive considering all the injuries to their key players. The Celtics’ four best players — Jason Tatum, Jaylen Brown, Kemba Walker, and Smart — have played a total of 28 minutes together this season. If Boston can stay healthy — and especially if Danny Ainge can use the Gordon Hayward trade exception to land a quality player to pair with the core — Boston can be a threat in the East. Along with the Brooklyn team they face Thursday.