Believe it or not, the return of Marcus Smart has injected the Boston Celtics with the perfect pick-me-up the team needed.
Infuriating, spectacular, streaky and defensive specialist have all been words used to describe Marcus Smart.
In game 2 of the Eastern Conference semifinals against the Philadelphia 76ers, Smart gave us a taste of all of those things.
The Celtics defeated the 76ers 108-103, thanks in large part due to the effort of the mercurial guard.
Given the start over Jaylen Brown, Smart responded with quite the first half. In fact, for roughly the first 18 minutes of the game, Smart was the reason the Celtics were even “hanging around”.
Down 48-26, things looked bleak. Smart had contributed ten of the 26 points and was doing all he could to keep Boston going.
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The Celtics finished the half on a 25-8 run and Smart — thanks to an infectious energy — played his role well. He finished the half with 13 points and was perfect from the field, including knocking down three 3’s.
Smart brought his usual defensive pressure and intensity, helping limit Philly standout Ben Simmons to one point.
The streaky Smart showed up in the second half, but he finished with 19 points. He also added 5 rebounds, 3 assists, 2 steals, and one assist.
Bringing something extra to Boston Celtics
The Boston Celtics are 4-1 since Smart’s return from his thumb injury. After missing the last 15 games of the regular season (plus four more in the playoffs), one might have wondered how much Smart would contribute.
He’s done exactly as expected: helping solidify the defense.
The Milwaukee Bucks scored over 100 points in all four games that Smart missed. In the three games after his return, the Bucks failed to score 100 again as Boston closed out the series.
Philadelphia has barely topped the century mark in the first two games, thanks to Smart’s contributions.
Smart’s play on defense is one reason I can live with the streaky shooting he can sometimes fall into. When Smart is on and in rhythm, he is one of the best players on the Celtics. Yes, he can be more engaged when in the starting lineup but he’s proven to be an asset whatever his role is.
Now considered a veteran of this young bunch, Smart has shown his growth over the season. He may never be the calm, collected player people want him to be. And I say good. The more manic and energy-filled the better.
Just remember to find those times to lead when called upon. Like game 2. The more we see of that version of Smart, the farther the Celtics will go.
Hopefully all the way right up to banner 18.