The Boston Celtics played arguably their most complete game on Monday night at Smoothie King Center, beating the New Orleans Pelicans by a score of 124-107. With no Jaylen Brown due to a lower back injury, Marcus Smart was inserted into the starting lineup and provided a much needed spark. He would finish with 8 points, 5 assists, and 2 rebounds, but Smart’s presence and defensive prowess allowed other starters like Kyrie Irving to take some of the pressure off of themselves.
“I think the unit that we had out there today, we really had that mindset going that we wanted to start off the game and have a defensive presence,” said Irving. “Marcus (Smart) on the ball took some of that pressure off me, being off the ball as well offensively and defensively. ... Having Marcus (Smart) in there gave me that outlet to be able get off the ball. We did pretty well with our unit tonight. We started off the game and we never looked back.” Irving continued his high praise of Smart throughout his postgame availability.
“I mean there’s a reason why we signed him back,” said Irving of Smart. “There’s a reason why he’s very instrumental for our team to be successful, because he’s a veteran now, not in terms of years, but he’s played high level basketball for the Celtics for a few years now. So we expect him to be in the right spots and doing the right things - and when he’s playing with me, we play pretty well together.”
Monday’s starting lineup also helped contribute to Al Horford’s best performance of the young season. The veteran big man was very pleased with Boston’s showing on Monday night, saying it resembled last season’s 55-win team.
“We looked a lot like the team we were last year,” Horford said. “That was encouraging.” Horford finished with a season-high 20 points on 8/15 shooting to go along with 4 rebounds, 3 assists, and 3 steals in 32 minutes of play. It was without a doubt his most complete effort thus far, and head coach Brad Stevens made that quite clear following the win. “I thought (Horford) played one of his best games of the season,” said the Celtics head coach.
Does this mean the Celtics have finally found a starting lineup? Stevens says definitely not. “We won’t be settled on a starting lineup until forever.”