The Boston Celtics have been searching all season for a way to break past the mediocrity of their record. They’ve tried a number of things, including moving recovering All-Star Gordon Hayward to the bench. It may have been an injury to Jaylen Brown, however, that offered Boston a look at a solution that might produce intended results.
Marcus Smart, the longest-tenured Celtic, is all about toughness and effort. Brad Stevens has been calling for toughness and effort all season long. With Jaylen Brown nursing a tailbone injury, Smart was called upon to start against the equally middling New Orleans Pelicans. Boston got off to a great start, winning the game handily.
This may be a combination that Stevens will stick to in the future. Making an appearance on 98.5 The Sports Hub, Stevens hinted at the fact that Smart might be in the starting lineup to stay for the moment:
Brad Stevens tells @985TheSportsHub that continuing to start Marcus Smart is "certainly something we have to consider," and says he's leaning toward doing so.— Marc D'Amico (@Marc_DAmico) November 28, 2018
Against New Orleans, Smart put up 8 points, 5 assists, 2 rebounds while shooting 38% from the floor and 40% from the 3-point line, and he was a +12 on the night. He played almost 40 minutes, taking a crack at all of New Orleans’ heavy hitters on defense while easing Kyrie Irving’s load on offense. This solidified the Smart-Irving pairing while allowing for Gordon Hayward and Terry Rozier to spend more time together in the second unit. CelticsBlog’s own Alex Kungu broke down the positive impact that Smart had on the game and Boston’s identity, and that’s something the team probably wants as a mainstay.
In the past, Brad Stevens has liked to keep Smart with the second unit for continuity’s sake. At just 11-10 on the season, Stevens is looking for anything that will bring lasting success. The real question is how this will impact Jaylen Brown moving forward. Will Brown slide back into the lineup, replacing Marcus Morris and forcing Jayson Tatum down the 4 position? Or will Stevens look to have Jaylen Brown also come off the bench with Gordon Hayward, spreading the talent out more evenly between the first and second units?
We’ll know more as the Celtics take on the Cleveland Cavaliers Friday at 7PM EST at the TD Garden.