The Celtics’ win streak came to an end Sunday afternoon in Sacramento. It was a back and forth game the whole way through, and the Kings kept rising up to the occasion when they needed a bucket the most. In the final seconds of the game, Marcus Smart put up a buzzer beating floater with perfect touch that somehow did not fall for him.
Sacramento was led by a season-high 35-point game from Buddy Hield. He made two huge buckets back-to-back in the last two minutes of the game and would not let this team die. The Celtics had no answer for him as he was hitting every shot he took. It was during the fourth quarter crunch time when Brad Stevens focused on him solely with Marcus Smart. Even with Smart’s tenacious defense, Hield was still able to score at will. It was an incredible match-up to watch each possession with these two battling on every play down the stretch of this game.
To start the game, the Celtics resorted to a defense of switching most everything on the defensive end. It is what they are accustomed to at this point, but it made for situations to get Hield going in this game.
Even as this clip is only an isolated breakdown on defense, it does show Hield getting into a rhythm early. Javonte Green fell asleep ball watching, and Harrison Barnes was able to find Hield in the corner. It was the first of many threes. Hield is the biggest spark on this Kings’ team, and the Celtics could not contain him all game.
Then, here in this next clip from the third quarter, Smart does pick Hield up after he crossed mid-court. However, the defensive game plan was still to switch most everything around the perimeter.
In this clip, you can see the switch happen off of Smart and picked up by Semi Ojeleye. Ojeleye then flashes too far out to where Hield cuts back in and pulls up for another three-point bucket. It is a difficult assignment for Ojeleye, but you can still see Smart being upset about Hield continuing to score off poor defense.
That is when either by Smart’s request or by a game plan restructuring from Stevens, Smart started defending up on Hield every time they were together on the floor. In this clip around the five minute mark in the fourth quarter, Smart is on him like glue until a screen freed Hield up. Brad Wanamaker stuck with his guy who made the screen and had no thought to switch out on Hield taking the shot. It was Smart’s sole responsibility, and Hield was making the most of his hot shooting night against Smart.
Even with this offensive explosion from Hield, the Celtics were matching his buckets in the fourth quarter. It seemingly felt like once the Celtics took the lead by one or two points, Hield would bury another shot and put the Kings back up. Finally, in these last two clips, it was Hield putting the team on his back and carrying them across the finish line of this game. Both of these possessions, Smart played solid defense on him, but it was to no avail. It is these moments where you just have to tip your cap to him and move to the next possession. Hield answered the call every time for the Kings.
One of the best things about Marcus Smart is his intensity and effort level when he steps on that court. It is one of the reasons why he is a fan favorite with this fan base. Unfortunately, he was just outmatched by a better shooting performance by Buddy Hield. No one else on the team would step up like that to take on the defensive responsibilities that Smart had during this game.
This article is not to diminish his defensive skills at all. Everyone knows that he is still a premier defender in this league. The reason for this article is to more highlight this offense vs. defense battle with two players going at their highest levels. It is definitely a humbling experience for Smart that will be built upon for the next offensive star the Celtics face and need help against. He is going to be the guy that must step up once again. Today could be a good bounce back game for Smart as the Celtics face Devin Booker and the Phoenix Suns. Hopefully, the basketball gods will have that Marcus Smart floater fall in the Celtics’ favor.