There may not be a player who defines hustle on the Celtics like Marcus Smart. On a team that probably leads the league in "hustle" per game (or other synonyms being used across its broadcasts; quite analytical of me, I know), that's quite an accomplishment.
That hustle was on display again today. Defensive activity and aggressiveness against the Nuggets' sloppy offensive sets were a driving force in Boston's 121-101 win Sunday afternoon. But none of Smart's plays stuck out like his punch, a different kind from the one he laid on Matt Bonner's groin area a while back.
D.J. Augustin slid in a poorly placed bounce pass to Jusuf Nurkic that he couldn't handle, and before either could gather themselves, Smart stuck his fist and unleashed a cartoonish punch that sent the ball flying to the Celtics' offensive end. The hustle continued, as Evan Turner tore up court with Avery Bradley close behind and saved it for a lay-in while Denver sat back in their offensive end still shocked at the hustle.
The play only turned a 95-82 game into a 97-82 one, but was it the play of the year in a sense of pure hustle?
Little actions like those build Celtics wins, and that may have been the most over-the-top example of "Celtics Hustle" we've seen all season. And doesn't the fact that they went to those lengths for two points up 13 say something about where they are mentally? Especially as Denver just watched from behind.