The Boston Celtics are off to a strong start in 2019-20 and Marcus Smart is a major reason why. Now to make sure he stays healthy.
A defensive stopper is a valuable commodity in the NBA; a specialist who can guard any spot on the floor. These players are a special breed – bringing energy, swagger and toughness alike – and the Boston Celtics are lucky to have one on their team.
Marcus Smart has taken his play to a new level this season. Or maybe we are simply witnessing it more because he’s moved into the spotlight. Either way, as an elder statesman now in his sixth season, Smart has upped his game and taken over as a leader on this team.
The goal now is to make sure Smart is healthy and ready to contribute in the months of April thru June.
Smart missed his first game of the season on Wednesday, a victory over the Miami Heat. Smart officially was listed out with an illness, though he has hurt his hand, banged his face, and is also dealing with an oblique issue.
A game off here in December – to deal with all that ails him – was a fantastic decision.
No load management here
Marcus Smart is the type of player who wants to be on the floor every night. And while we want to see our favorite players play in every game, a player as banged up as Smart is, this early in the season, deserves a night off.
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The Celtics will be in the race for a top seed in the Eastern Conference. And yes, every game matters, but if Smart needs to be rested, it should be now. It’s much better than the alternative of him suffering a worse injury because he battled through a myriad of them.
This isn’t a case of load management, where head coach Brad Stevens and the Celtics are resting Smart just because. Twenty games into the season, Smart has laid it all on the line in 19 of them. And he’s dealt with injuries throughout his career in Boston, though he is coming off a season in which he played in career-high 80 regular season games.
So missing a game in the first quarter of the season was a smart move.
Smart: the defensive whiz
Through 20 games, Boston is still a top-5 defensive scoring team, thanks to Smart.
He has guarded point guards and forwards and everyone in between. He’s taken over for periods of time in guarding the likes of Luka Doncic, Giannis Antetokounmpo, and Kawhi Leonard, proving he might be worthy of Defensive Player of the Year mentions.
The Celtics are holding opponents to 103.9 points per game (5th) and 43.3 percent from the floor (6th).
A let up against the Heat might have been expected with Smart out. Instead, the Celtics won by 19, holding the Heat to 93 points. Miami had entered the game winners of three straight, averaging 117.3 points in those victories.
Smart is also doing fine work on offense. He’s averaging 11.9 points per game, the most of his career, and also playing his most minutes. Smart’s shooting has gone down slightly from last season, but it’s still at a higher clip than other seasons of his career.
But it’s defense where his true talent lies. Smart averages 1.4 steals. He is stingy on the perimeter and stout in the key. Every team should be lucky enough to have their own Marcus Smart.