A preseason home-and-home is supposed to be the backdrop of a budding rivalry, but it sounds like something might be starting between Marcus Smart and Kyle Lowry. Smart was disappointed in his play against the Raptor point guard and talked about the mistakes he made:
"I gave Lowry the respect that he deserves instead of just going out there and just playing," Smart said after the contest, which Boston lost 116-109. "With that being said, he kind of made me take a step back a little bit and not play the way I usually play."
Smart finished the game with zero points, two rebounds and seven assists. Lowry, meanwhile, racked up a game-high 18 points to go along with three boards and six helpers.
Boston's prized rookie had seemingly replayed the matchup in his head numerous times before speaking with the media that night. He has since replayed the matchup multiple times in front of his own eyes, confirming his initial suspicions.
"You could see me being lenient at times," Smart said on Tuesday, recalling what he has seen on tape. "At times when I picked him up it was very effective. I kind of interrupted him and speeded him up at a different pace that he didn't want to play at. In the game you could see that's not what was going on. I was letting him dictate the game and he controlled the game."
The rookie is being a little hard on himself. He was chewing Lowry's gum for most of the game, including drawing a charge with some full court pressure and coming up with this Avery Bradley-esque steal:
However, there were some moments when Lowry got the best of him on offense. In summer league, Smart didn't dazzle on the offensive end of the floor, but I marveled at how well he could read plays on defense and anticipate where passes were going. Here, he ball watches as Lowry flares out behind him for a three. Smart recovers quickly and puts up a pretty good contest, but Smart needs to trust that either Avery is going to recover or a big will stop penetration. On that play, Lowry is his responsibility and he burns Smart with that small window of hesitation.
After Tyler Zeller got called for the shooting foul, Brian Scalabrine remarked that Stevens knew that a step up screen was coming on the weak side and that Smart needed to either allude the pick or fight through it harder. This isn't necessarily Smart's fault; Zeller should have either called out the blind screen, iced the pick, or not committed so much on the perimeter. As the season progresses, they'll need to communicate a little better, especially with a bowling ball-type driver like Lowry.
On back-to-back possessions that would eventually knock the wind out of the Celtics' sails, Lowry used two very high pick-and-rolls with Amir Johnson to shed a gambling Smart. Over the last four preseason games, it's very rare to see Marcus stumble on his footwork and get lost on a screen like this. The way their head-to-head match up was going that night, you could tell that Lowry wanted to school the rookie after Smart played so aggressively in the first half of an exhibition game.
A lot of this is admittedly GIFpicking. These are just a handful of possessions and Smart's defense didn't lose the game for the Celtics. With Smart's aggressive style, he's going to get burned once in a while. However, what's important is that he watched tape, recognized his errors, and gets another crack at it tonight. Brad Stevens has said that he wants more variety in the preseason schedule next year, but there's some value with these mini-series against the Atlantic Division. The teams get a chance to game plan and counter punch over the two games and we get these mano-a-mano duels that are precursors to the regular season and maybe, the rest of Smart and Lowry's careers. With Toronto atop Boston's division and the Celtics on the rise, we could see these two going up against each other a lot.