Marcus Smart is back and with him come all the hustle plays and defensive stops that we’ve all come to love. However, the often underrated aspect of Smart’s game is his baskeball IQ and corporate knowledge of Boston basketball. He’s by far the longest standing Celtic under Brad Stevens in his 7th year in the league. He’s a fan favorite for his intangibles, but his contributions on a possession-by-possession basis shouldn’t be taken for granted.
Smart was limited to five-minute stints in his first game back after missing the last eighteen. After the game, Brad Stevens said, “the five-minute stint sucks. It’s impossible to find a rhythm and have him in at the end of the game.” Despite that, Smart made the most of his 21 minutes on the floor, scoring nineteen points and hitting 3 of his 5 three-point attempts.
But then, there are the little things. Well, big if you consider leadership high on your list of priorities. After hitting a three to put Boston up a point, you can see Smart calling out defensive assignments in the Celtics’ match up zone like sending Payton Pritchard to the corner to cover Landry Shamet and making sure he and Daniel Theis are on the same page on the same side of the floor. Disregard the result of the play. What’s important here is that Boston’s middle linebacker has returned.
On the ensuing offensive play, Brooklyn hits Boston with a zone look. Jaylen Brown is the initiator at the top, but it’s Smart orchestrating against the 3-2. He sends Pritchard opposite because he knows that Tyler Johnson will follow and sink down to the block. That leaves him wide open for a corner three.
The Celtics are currently 13th in offense (112.6 offensive rating) and 19th on defense (112.1 defensive rating) after Smart missed half of the first half of the year. Expect both numbers to improve going forward.