Against the New Orleans Pelicans, we got treated to the full Marcus Smart Experience. Mid-way through the third quarter, a moment of madness ensued. Marcus Smart had a JR Smith moment.
After Payton Pritchard forced a jump ball tying up Brandon Ingram--a Marcus Smart-style play in and of itself--the New Orleans Pelicans had 0.3 seconds remaining on the shot clock. They opted not to attempt to even regain possession and let the Celtics win the jump.
Smart caught the tip and threw the ball out of bounds, thinking that the defensive possession was over. Let’s be honest: there’s some humor to the mistake, and that one play alone didn’t cost Boston the game.
“I don’t remember the exact situation to be honest. But I’m pretty sure I was just uplifting him. that’s my brother,” Kemba Walker said of Smart’s uncharacteristic blunder. At the time, the Celtics had whittled the Pelicans nine-point halftime lead from 9 to 4 and we’re finally gaining momentum. The turnover was followed by an Ingram three and the five-point swing was complete. They wouldn’t relinquish lead after that.
“You can always tell when guys are a little upset with themselves. So, I was just trying to uplift him, give him confidence, just like he would for me I think we were both a little bit confused to be honest.”
Unfortunately, that single mistake led to an overzealous Marcus Smart for the remainder of the game. Flying around the gym, trying to draw charges, running headfirst into traffic, and ultimately getting ejected- Smart clearly wanted to make amends for his brain freeze earlier in the game.
Mid-way through the fourth quarter, Smart attacked a close-out and drove hard to the basket. Entering traffic, Smart caught Nickeil Alexander-Walker with an elbow, getting called for a flagrant foul in the process. Another two fouls in two minutes then saw the Celtics guard’s night cut short.
“As a group, we just have to be there for each other.” Jayson Tatum said when asked about Smart’s troubles.
Tatum’s comments echo a sentiment shared by Smart last week, once the trade deadline had completed.
“Sometimes we get so attached to guys, to players, to teammates, to organizations, that we forget that (it’s a business).” Smart said, when discussing his name thrown around in trade rumors.
Generally, a stormy night for Smart revolves around poor shot selection or an aggressive reaction to a foul / trash talk. Despite the poor decision-making down the stretch, the locker room still supports Smart - a player who a large contingent of the team have been with since their entry into the league.
Seeing the defensive anchor point guard frustrated over some questionable calls isn’t the usual par for the course, and isn’t something we should expect to see too often. However, the Celtics are a better team when Smart is locked in on both sides of the floor, and keeps his emotions in check. Despite the loss to New Orleans, the team looked more coherent on both ends, and Smart’s willingness to pass rather than shoot (new development) is a big part of that.