BOSTON — Marcus Smart said Sunday afternoon that he’s “hopeful” that he will return to the court on Monday, when his Boston Celtics face the Milwaukee Bucks in Game 4 of the Eastern Conference semifinals.

“Feeling good today,” Smart said after taking part in Boston’s practice. “Today was a good day. I was able to participate with the team. … The boxes are being checked.

“We’re taking it one day at a time, but we’re definitely in the right position, right time, progressive phase to where I’m getting really close to coming back here.”

In a sign that his return is imminent, the Celtics upgraded Smart’s status to questionable on Sunday.

Smart has been out since he suffered an oblique tear in the third quarter of Boston’s 116-108 loss to the Orlando Magic on April 7, the Celtics’ final home game of the regular season.

When Smart’s injury was diagnosed, the team said he would resume basketball activities in four to six weeks, and the guard’s progress has been a topic of discussion ever since. He said he was cleared for contact for the first time Saturday, and in typical fashion, he immediately fell into old habits by taking a charge during a 3-on-3 game.

“I have,” Smart said when asked if he has taken any hits. “[Saturday] in the 3-on-3, and it responded really well. [I] took a charge on accident. I wasn’t trying to, just kind of fell. I kind of fell. I wasn’t even trying to take it.

“It was ironic because that’s what I needed to do. And it just happened on its own, natural. It felt fine. Like I said, we’ll see how today goes and check it out tomorrow.”

Smart said he’s trying in every way possible to test himself in his comeback from the injury, which happened when he got caught in the side by Magic center Nikola Vucevic’s hip.

“I’m trying all kinds of things to get hit,” Smart said. “Coming off screens, guarding guys who are going around screens, in the post when I get the ball, guys are checking me with elbows here and there to kinda test me.

“Like I said, everything has checked out fine. … I’m just going to see how my body recovers.”

Celtics coach Brad Stevens, who has provided minimal updates on Smart’s recovery the past few weeks, said the decision of whether Smart would be available Monday would be determined by Smart and the training staff, and he would prepare accordingly.

Boston had a light practice Sunday, so the decision to play Smart will likely be based on his workouts Saturday, Sunday and Monday before the game and how his body responds to them.

“We didn’t do enough that I would be able to see anything, but it sounds like he’s doing better. He’s close, and hopefully he’ll be available sooner rather than later,” Stevens said.

“[Whether he plays will] be totally up to the training staff and how he feels. It has nothing to do with me, so I’ll get their cues and go from there.”

The Celtics have missed Smart, who is the emotional leader of the team and who had his best season this year, as he shot career bests from the field (.422) and 3-point range (.364) while also arguably turning in an All-Defensive-team-worthy season.

His presence would be welcomed as the Celtics try to turn things around Monday after dropping Games 2 and 3 to fall behind in the series. Friday’s Game 3 was just the second game the Celtics have lost at home dating to the start of last postseason.

“It’s exciting,” Kyrie Irving said of the possibility of Smart returning. “He’s a big part of our team. He alleviates a lot of different pressures out there throughout the game and makes my job a lot easier. So whenever you have the possibility of him returning, it’s always a positive.”

While Smart will potentially be back for the Celtics, Malcolm Brogdon will not be back for the Bucks. There had been some expectation that Brogdon could return as soon as Game 3. But after Brogdon sat out that game, coach Mike Budenholzer ruled the guard out for Game 4 after the team practiced Sunday afternoon at Boston University.

“I think he’s getting close,” Budenholzer said, adding that Brogdon has participated in 5-on-5 practices three times. Brogdon has been out since mid-March with a plantar fascia tear in his right foot.

ESPN’s Malika Andrews contributed to this report.


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