Celtics' Marcus Smart out Friday vs. Sixers due to protocols
Boston Celtics guard Marcus Smart Vincent Carchietta-USA TODAY Sports

Celtics guard Marcus Smart out Friday vs. Sixers due to health and safety protocols

Due to the NBA's Play-In Tournament, the Boston Celtics are currently in a dangerous spot in the Eastern Conference standings at the halfway point of the season. At 21-21, the C's are tied with the new-look New York Knicks for the 10th best record in the conference.

At the end of the regular season, the seventh through 10th seeds will be forced to square off in the daunting Play-In Tournament, while the first through sixth seeds will have a postseason "bye" of sorts. Any team that falls below the No. 10 spot will see their year end on the final day of the regular season.

Boston takes on the current fifth seed -- the Philadelphia 76ers -- on Friday night, and will have to do so without arguably the heart and soul of their team.

Smart missed the Celtics' win over the Indiana Pacers on Wednesday due to a right thigh contusion, but has played and started 38 of the team's 42 games thus far. Smart is averaging 11.6 points and 4.0 rebounds, as well as a team-leading 5.3 assists and career-high, team-leading 1.9 steals per contest this season.

The two-time first team All-Defensive guard is the only player other than All-Star Jayson Tatum to appear in 38 games for Boston so far this season. Following the game against the Sixers, the Celtics will next play at 8:30 p.m. ET on Saturday against the Chicago Bulls.

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