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Adversity is no obstacle for Marcus Smart

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BOSTON - As is usually the case, Marcus Smart's impact went far beyond the box score in the Celtics' 124-109 victory over the Bucks Friday at TD Garden. Smart didn't finish with a single made basket, but was still massively effective.

Smart lived up to his 'The Cobra' nickname on defense by using his poisonous venom to paralyze every Buck from Giannis Antetokounmpo to Rashad Vaughn to Tyler Ennis.

Smart was indeed responsible for sending Antetokounmpo to the bench by sliding his feet and taking a charge midway through the third quarter. The Greek Freak was especially difficult for the Celtics to contain, but Smart -- and Avery Bradley -- both put the clamps down over the course of the game.

"He did what he does," Isaiah Thomas said of Smart. "He made plays on the defensive end, made the right play offensively, and he brought a lot of energy...he doesn't have to shoot to impact the game. That's a special player."

Smart tied Evan Turner for a team-high nine assists, as he once again displayed his advanced vision in a myriad of ways. He tossed two alley oops, one to Tyler Zeller and another to Kelly Olynyk -- the bounce is real! -- and did a noble job of facilitating within the flow of the Celtics' pace-and-space offense.

"He doesn't have to shoot to impact the game. That's a special player." -Isaiah Thomas on Marcus Smart

Smart's dimes played a huge role in the Celtics assisting on 35 of their 44 made baskets for the game, which was nearly a season-high in assist percentage (79.5 percent). They're now 24-9 on the season when they assist on 65 percent or more of their makes, as side-to-side ball movement continues to prove to be integral to their success.

"He was great. He was really good. He's been good since the West Coast trip started," Celtics head coach Brad Stevens said after the game. "He went through that week that was tough prior to that. As a coach, you win two or three games right before we went on the West Coast trip and everybody is talking about Marcus' struggles. You know Marcus is gonna play better. It was a little bit of adversity that led to better things and I thought he played well again tonight."

For all the excitement Smart inspired at TD Garden on a chilly Friday night in Boston, his greatest performance came off the court earlier in the week.

Smart lived a troubled childhood. He was only 10 years old when his brother Todd passed away after an 18-year battle with cancer. Many of his young teenage years were spent on the streets of Lancaster, Texas, where he took out his anger after losing his brother. But Smart eventually moved from the streets to the court, and he promised that if he ever 'made it' that he'd make a positive impact in his community.

That's precisely what he did this week by launching the YounGameChanger Foundation, which aims to provide support to families with seriously or chronically ill children, and to encourage inner city young athletes to be ‘game changers' off the court.

"When he was 9 years old he said if the Lord blessed him to go to the NBA he was gonna give back," Smart's mother Camellia Smart told CSN. "And the Lord has blessed him to do this. And this is something that's really close to his heart -- to all of our hearts."

Whether it's something he's going through off the court -- or the media criticism of his shooting -- it couldn't be anymore clear that Marcus Smart is using all degrees of adversity as fuel to become a better player and person.

Contact me on Facebook and Twitter @KevinOConnorNBA. My 2016 NBA Draft Guide can be ordered here.

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