After an overtime classic between two teams that could conceivably be meeting in June, tensions between Patrick Beverley and Marcus Smart will fester from afar until the Clippers visit Boston on February 13th.
The string of late starts that likely eliminated the older population of Celtics fans from viewing an epic OT in LA still stands as a major reason conferences exist. These west coast swings stink, so they only come in packages twice per year for each east team. Still, Beverley and Smart touted their superior energy to set a tone that’ll inevitably carry over to a game twelve weeks from now.
Beverley posted 40 of the best minutes of his career to lift the Clippers up from down 7 with under three minutes remaining. He scored 14 points — with a crucial three-pointer to reduce Boston’s lead to four — along with 16 rebounds, seven assists, three steals and two blocks. His finger twirl initiated a crucial replay late, after the referee initially shook his head at him. The change riveted the crowd.
For portions of the frenetic final moments of perhaps the marquee game of this NBA season, Beverley and Smart looked like the two best players on the floor alongside All-Stars Paul George, Kawhi Leonard, and Kemba Walker.
Smart scored 15 points, dished eight assists, hit a leaning jumper in the lane and ridiculous scoop layup in crunch time. His save, as he flew out-of-bounds, ricocheted off Leonard’s ankle before flying out, giving Boston an improbably final shot down three in the final seconds of overtime.
Reporter - “What’s it like being out there with Marcus Smart, a guy trying to out-intense you?”— Tomer Azarly (@TomerAzarly) November 21, 2019
Patrick Beverley - “...”
Reporter - “You don’t usually have another guy out there that matches your intensity.”
Pat Bev - “...That’s funny”#Clippers #Celtics pic.twitter.com/GxrQWb0gjJ
It didn’t impress Beverley. “That’s funny,” he quipped, largely ignoring the comparison a reporter drew between the two guards.
Smart saw the video and responded in Denver on Friday, largely respectful toward Beverley’s performance, but assertive in his dominance on the court.
“You’ve got to respect a guy like that that goes out there and plays every night fearlessly, and really stands down to nobody,” he told the press. “The respect factor is there, but at the same time, I’m on another level.”
Smart jumped into the starting lineup for Gordon Hayward seven games ago and propelled Boston’s win streak to 10, shooting nearly 50% from three as a starter. He averaged 10 threes per night the last three games and shot 30% or worse in each of them. His offensive burst is nonetheless elevating him to the best box plus-minus season of his career.
Beverley is only shooting 37% from the field but is boasting the best defensive rating and defensive box plus-minus of his eight-year NBA run. Opponents are scoring 12.1 points per possession fewer with him on the floor compared to off, with a 4.4% increase in turnover percentage.
Are you ready for the rematch yet?