It has become the type of performance that is engrained into the identity of Marcus Smart.
A poor shooting night, like the one he had Tuesday against the Miami Heat when he connected on just 3-of-13 attempts from the field, never keeps him from making an impact in some capacity. He shrugs off each missed shot, and then makes a game-altering play elsewhere.
It’s even become almost predictable that somehow, someway, all of his shots that went awry will fade away from memory, replaced by plays that don’t stand out in the box score, but ultimately make the difference in a winning outcome.
Smart consistently did that in the 109-101 win over the Heat, overshadowing his tough offensive showing in which he scored just 11 points and had four turnovers by coming up with stellar defensive plays throughout the contest along with a critical 3-pointer and a key offensive rebound in the game’s final two minutes that help hand Miami just its third loss on its home court this season.
“Just continue to do what I normally do,” said Smart on his mentality when he isn’t producing offensively. “I don’t really let shots not falling effect how I play energy wise. Times like that when you’re shots not falling, you’re defense has to be at an all-time high.”
While Smart’s struggles offensively can be tough to deal with, not many NBA players can makeup for the offensive shortcomings in a myriad of ways like Smart.
Against the Heat, Smart still recorded eight rebounds, four assists, three blocks, one steal and drew a charge. He stood up to Jimmy Butler when guarding the perennial All-Star wing, taking the ball right from Butler as Butler tried to dish off a pass after driving in the lane. Smart’s tenacious defensive effort also gobbled up Dion Waiters as Smart ripped the ball right away from Waiters on a drive in the second quarter.
After Smart sank his first shot, a 3-pointer just 14 seconds into the game, he followed by missing his next nine attempts, but Smart has an uncanny ability to make you believe that in crunch time, one of those shots will fall.
He did just that as when the Heat closed to within five with just under two minutes left in regulation, Smart took a pass from Kemba Walker, stepped out beyond the arc, hesitated for just a second before launching a 3-pointer that swished through the net.
You just can't give Marcus "Mr. 11 Threes" Smart that much breathing room. pic.twitter.com/qxXv3qyoSI— Taylor Snow (@taylorcsnow) January 29, 2020
Smart had one more winning play to follow. With the Celtics protecting a seven-point lead with under a minute remaining, Smart sized up a Walker miss from deep, jumped up between three Heat defenders to win the rebound and tip it back to Walker to erase more clock. That play embodies Smart perfectly, taking on a difficult task at a critical juncture and succeeding with his fierce desire to do so.
Smarf with the Smarfiest of plays to secure the win pic.twitter.com/Tt5GtijI9R— Max Carlin (@maxacarlin) January 29, 2020
“Win,” said Smart of what he was thinking when he went for that offensive rebound. “For me, it’s just what can I do to help my team and at that time I saw a loose ball and I just thought first one to get it, whatever happens, happens. I’m in the air so I was hoping I didn’t get flipped or get hit in the face like I usually do. But you can’t think of that in the moment. You got to go, go get the ball and first person to the floor, first person to the ball wins. That’s what we did. We came up with a lot of timely plays for us.”
It’s that kind of unwavering effort and team-first mindset from Smart that draws the respect and adulation from his teammates. And it doesn’t matter how many shots Smart has missed previously, he’s the guy you want in the fox hole with the game on the line.
It has become his indelible trait throughout his six seasons in the NBA, that Smart will do whatever it takes to get a win.