With Marcus Smart watching from the sidelines, the Celtics channeled their injured teammate’s spirit and made a rousing comeback against the Pacers, winning play after winning play.
Marcus Smart sported blinged out sneakers, a blue tuxedo jacket, and a dollar sign braided into his hair in his first appearance in the Garden since suffering his partially torn oblique muscle. You couldn’t miss him on the sidelines and while he’s sorely missed on the floor, his teammates paid homage to Smart with winning play after winning play in a 99-91 win vs. the Pacers in Game 2.
Some of the Game 1 comeback can be attributed to the Pacers missing open shots, but on Wednesday night, the Celtics not only had to match Indiana shot-for-shot, but they had to tap into Smart’s bag of tricks to take Game 2.
After Tuesday’s practice, Brad Stevens spoke about filling Smart’s void with the starting guard scheduled to miss 4-6 weeks. “Marcus Smart does twelve things that nobody else does. Everybody’s got to do one of them,” Stevens said. “Nobody can be Marcus Smart. We’re not asking anybody to be Marcus Smart.”
Here are twelve plays that just ooze Marcus Smart:
Jaylen Brown’s defense on Bojan Bogdanovic: With Smart out, most of the responsibility of defending the Pacers’ leading scorer has fallen on Brown’s shoulders. Brown has been re-inserted into the starting lineup and right off the bat in Game 2, he continued his dogged approach of chasing Bogdanovic around screens and limiting his air space. In 47 possessions over two games, Brown has held Bogdanovic to 7 points.
Kyrie’s cobra strike steal: It hasn’t been mentioned enough, but Kyrie has dialed it up a few notches on defense. He called himself the “head of the snake” in a possible homage to Marcus “The Cobra” Smart and showed off his defensive instincts with this steal and assist.
Irving draws a charge: Superstars aren’t supposed to take charges. That’s usually blue collar work for blue collar players like Smart. Kyrie is the only Celtic to draw a charge so far in the playoffs.
Rozier probing: A skill that young point guards have to develop to be successful in this league is keeping their dribble alive. Smart figured out how to slow the game down and use his size to his advantage in the paint by keeping defenders on his back and finding angles to hit rim-running bigs or slashing wings. For Rozier, his next gen move will be using that yo-yo dribble to probe defenses and finishing more consistently around the rim.
Kyrie using his size: Indiana’s back up guards are small. Whether it’s Cory Joseph or Aaron Holiday, any opportunity to take either of them in the post should be taken advantage of. Smart is the bigger and badder bully on the block, but Kyrie uses his size advantage with a sweet fade away.
Mad Brad: Stevens is all about accountability, even if that means calling out Kyrie in a timeout. After that TO, the Celtics would finish Game 2 with a 74,4 defensive rating over the final 21 minutes.
Scary Terry with the PnR defense: The Celtics have a bend-don’t-break pick-and-roll defense, but guards are tasked to stay close on ball handlers even if they’re conceding a mid-range jumper. Smart’s a master at negotiating screens and recovering back onto the point guard. Here, it’s Rozier chewing Collison’s gum.
Kyrie, rim protector: The headlines will highlight Kyrie’s 37 points and seven assists, but his effort on the defensive end was notable, too. This block came in semi-transition on Tyreke Evans driving full tilt. Evans pulled out this euro step in Game 1. Don’t think Kyrie didn’t watch the tape.
Back-to-back clutch shots: These are surely Kyrie’s moments, but Celtics fans have grown accustomed to momentum shifting on a handful of Smart plays. Usually it’s a Smart strip steal or recklessly diving on the floor for a loose ball, but those 3’s were back breakers for a Pacers team that looked like they were trying to run out the clock.
Bloody Al: The game had to be stopped at a very critical moment in the fourth quarter when blood was spotted on Al Horford’s forearm. Horford had been questionable at the start of the day with illness, but he gutted it out, got cut up in the process, and played the final fifteen minutes of the game.
Tonight’s Play of the Game is a spectacular glimpse at the team-oriented play that stole the game away from Indiana late in the fourth! pic.twitter.com/PxrYCplGxb
— Boston Celtics (@celtics) April 18, 2019
The play: A winning play that ended up being the game-winning play. Jaylen Brown was showered with praise for pushing the ball in transition and making a split second decision to kick it out to Jayson Tatum for the corner 3 rather than trying to hit a contested layup in the paint with Myles Turner protecting the rim. It was the right play in the moment and one that Smart would have made for sure.